Q&A - BayernLBs Dr Gerhard Gribkowsky 31 Oct 2005
At the beginning of year, BayernLBs Dr Gerhard Gribkowsky was the mysterious stranger strolling alongside Bernie Ecclestone in the paddock. By the end he was a more familiar figure, clearly on a mission to monitor and learn - a mission which recently culminated with the German bank taking over SLEC voting rights from fellow Speed shareholders, the American investment banks, Morgan Stanley and Lehman Brothers.
Q: BayernLBs takeover of the two American investment banks in the SLEC holding was a bold endorsement of the existing Formula One management structure. What were the positives that led to your making that commitment?
Dr Gerhard Gribkowsky: It is not a question of who the shareholders are but what rights are associated with certain shares. Bayerische Landesbank applied for EU clearance of sole control of Speed and received such clearance. Formula One needs clear governance structures to ensure an efficient cooperation between the key shareholders, Speed and Bambino, and Mr Ecclestone.
Q: Any negatives?
GG: There are none.
Q: With this new ownership in place doesnt that mean a severe setback for the much talked about manufacturers series in 2008?
GG: It's a purely internal matter between shareholders that has nothing to do with the manufacturers. Regardless, we see it as a crucial issue for all constituents of Formula One to end the discussions on two series and to focus their energies on ensuring a stable platform for the future of Formula One in the interests of all constituents and especially the millions of fans worldwide. We believe that the outstanding issues can be solved in dialogue between the parties. Mr Ecclestone and the shareholders are committed to continuing this dialogue and to finding solutions.
Q: In one of the meetings you referred to Mr Ecclestone as the CEO of Formula One. Is that how the bank sees his role?
GG: Mr Ecclestone has built this business and made it one of the most successful sport events in the world. Mr Ecclestone is the CEO and we support him in this role wherever we can.
Q: Now that there is only one major interest in SLEC holding, aside from Bernie Ecclestones stake, what structure is in place to monitor this investment? How does the bank express its opinion on investments, major deals, and future strategy?
GG: We have agreed a framework with Mr Ecclestone in which we as shareholders coordinate and agree key issues and decisions with him. We exchange our thoughts on current developments and the business regularly.
Q: Is there any plan for the bank to divest itself of its holding considering the non-traditional nature of this investment?
GG: A divestiture of the bank's holding is currently not a relevant issue. All shareholders need to act concertedly to support the future development of the sport and that is exactly what we are doing.
Q: What is the opinion of the bank's major shareholders about its investment in Formula One?
GG: This is an operational issue for the bank and not a matter for the bank's shareholders.
Q: You have been to many races over the course of the season. Can you express your views on the sport as both a banker and an individual?
GG: It is always fascinating to go to a Formula One race. Especially this year with the first race in Istanbul the sport had a special highlight with a challenging and attractive race track and with Turkey as a fantastic host country. I am particularly pleased about this year's Formula One season where the spectators have seen a very exciting and intense fight for the world championship.