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EM.TV Gains Formula One Broadcast Rights

March 01, 2001|From Reuters

FRANKFURT, Germany — Media group EM.TV & Merchandising said Wednesday that it had exercised an option to lift its stake in Formula One racing to 75%, gaining control over broadcast rights to one of the world's most popular sporting events.

The move, clearly flagged by EM.TV and its Munich, Germany-based partner Kirch Group, has been opposed by car makers involved in Formula One racing who are wary of broadcast rights falling into the hands of a single television operator.

The deal probably will be opposed by racing mogul Bernie Ecclestone, who retains a 25% stake in Formula One holding company SLEC Holding and the International Automobile Assn. (FIA), which must approve the deal at its general assembly.

EM.TV already held a 50% stake in SLEC, the company that controls broadcast and commercial rights to Formula One events. It said it had exercised a call option to buy an additional 25% from Ecclestone for $987.5 billion, with financing linked to completion of its rescue deal reached with Kirch earlier this month. That agreement is still dependent on "various conditions," EM.TV said in a statement.

It said funding had been backed by Kirch, one of Germany's biggest private television operators of pay and free TV stations.

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