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F1: Bernie Ecclestone reveals Ferrari has veto over his successor

By Christian Sylt, for CNN
updated 5:49 AM EST, Thu December 5, 2013
F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone suggested Christian Horner (left) could succeed him but the appointment is unlikely
F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone suggested Christian Horner (left) could succeed him but the appointment is unlikely
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Bernie Ecclestone reveals Ferrari can veto his successor as Formula One chief executive
  • F1's controlling shareholder, private equity firm CVC, would also have a significant say
  • Ecclestone this year named Red Bull team boss Christian Horner as his possible replacement
  • But the 83-year-old says he has no plans to stand down

(CNN) -- Bernie Ecclestone has revealed that Italian motor marque Ferrari has a veto over who will succeed him as the boss of Formula One.

The British billionaire has managed F1's commercial rights since 1978 but there has recently been speculation over who could replace him as chief executive.

Ecclestone turned 83 this year and is defending lawsuits on both sides of the Atlantic surrounding the sale of F1 to private equity firm CVC in 2006.

Speaking before the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix in November, Ecclestone told reporters for the first time who he would like to take over the reins.

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He said his "ideal" successor would be Christian Horner, team principal of the Red Bull Racing team which has won the F1 championship for the past four years.

"It needs someone who knows the sport. If someone comes in from outside, a corporate type, I don't think I could work with them. It wouldn't last five minutes," said Ecclestone.

In a statement on Red Bull's official website on November 22, Horner said while he was flattered by Ecclestone's comments, he is "fully focused" on his role as team boss and has a long-term contract with the world champion team.

Ecclestone has since explained to CNN how Horner's name was linked with F1's top job, saying: "Somebody said to me, 'What happens when you go, what's going to happen?'

"Christian walked past and I said: 'What about him? He is a good guy.'

"Firstly CVC would never agree and secondly Ferrari would have a say," added Ecclestone.

Ecclestone revealed that Ferrari needs to give consent to his successor, a detail that is written in the prospectus for the stalled flotation of F1 on the Singapore stock exchange.

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The prospectus states: "We must obtain the written consent of Ferrari prior to the appointment of any person as our chief executive officer if, within the past five years, he or she has held a senior executive office or an ownership interest of 5% or more in any Team or automobile manufacturer which either owns more than a 5% interest in a Team or is a supplier of engines to a Team."

Ferrari's president Luca di Montezemolo also sits on F1's nomination committee, whose responsibility is to "review and recommend candidates for appointments to the Board ..." according to the prospectus.

Di Montezemolo recently commented on Italy's RAI television about Ecclestone's anointment of Horner as his successor.

The Italian commented: "Ecclestone sees Horner as his successor? As the years go by, he more and more enjoys making jokes and I'm happy he still has the desire to do so."

A Ferrari spokesperson declined to give additional comment and told CNN: "It is premature at the moment to discuss this topic further."

Ferrari is the only team which has competed in F1 every year since the championship was launched in 1950. Damon Hill, who won the F1 title for the Williams team in 1996, says he believes that Ferrari's power is down to its longevity.

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"Ferrari has always been an exception in this sport and there may be good reason for that," Hill told CNN.

"Personally, I don't see how you can have a free sport where one competitor has got a special status but there seems to be some sound marketing reason. Teams that have had longer commitment to the sport have got a greater say in the sport and that is fair enough.

"That is the power Ferrari has always had over the sport."

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As F1's controlling shareholder, CVC would also be closely involved with choosing Ecclestone's successor.

Only 313 staff are employed by the F1 Group, the Jersey-based company which runs the sport. The company has only 10 members of senior management, with no chief operating officer or deputy for Ecclestone.

David Campbell, the former European chief executive of entertainment group AEG, was said to be a successor for Ecclestone but left F1 just over a year after he was hired to run its corporate hospitality division in 2011.

Others who have been tipped to take over from Ecclestone include Justin King, who runs British supermarket chain Sainsbury's, and Sir Stuart Rose, the former chief executive of its rival Marks & Spencer.

But despite his advancing age and ongoing legal troubles, Ecclestone says he has no intention of giving up the wheel, and told CNN: "I'm not going anywhere."

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