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Ecclestone backtracks on F1 investment talk

Formula One chief executive Bernie Ecclestone has denied recent reports that he is planning a takeover of the motor-racing series’ parent company Delta Topco, while organisers of the sport’s inaugural Russian Grand Prix have maintained this year’s race in Sochi remains on course despite the escalation in tension in eastern Ukraine.

Earlier this month, Ecclestone told UK newspaper the Daily Express that he had held talks with CVC Capital Partners co-chairman Donald Mackenzie over the private equity group’s main shareholding in the sport, adding that he was looking into increasing his stake. CVC is the largest shareholder in Formula One with a stake of around 35 per cent, while 83-year-old Ecclestone currently holds a five per cent interest in the sport.

However, he told the Forbes website that circumstances have changed since then and said “if it was a good deal I would do it but it’s not something I’m actively planning.” He added to UK newspaper the Telegraph: “I’m not saying it won’t ever happen but there’s no point in me doing it at the moment.”

CVC cut its F1 interest from around 63 per cent to approximately 35 per cent in 2012 through two separate deals. In June 2012, Waddell & Reed increased its stake in the business from around 14.4 per cent to 20.9 per cent in a $500m (€365m) deal. The agreement with the American asset management company was announced after CVC sold a 21 per cent stake in the company for $1.6bn in May 2012 ahead of its mooted initial public offering (IPO) on the Singapore Stock Exchange. That deal also involved Waddell & Reed, along with global investment manager BlackRock and Norway's Norges Bank.

Ecclestone added to the Telegraph that CVC has put a $10bn price tag on Delta Topco. Various reports have linked media companies Liberty Global and Discovery Communications with a bid to acquire the combined 49 per cent stake currently owned by CVC and the estate of Lehman Brothers, the former US banking giant.

In other news, organisers have insisted Russia’s first grand prix will go ahead as planned despite an airliner being shot down in the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine. Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur crashed on Thursday in eastern Ukraine killing all 298 people on board.

The first Russian GP is due to be held on October 12 on a street circuit developed around Sochi’s winter Olympic Park. The political climate in Ukraine and Russia has increased speculation surrounding the event, with the United States and European Union having imposed sanctions on a number of Russian individuals and companies.

Thursday’s incident has increased fears over the race, but Russian GP promoters told the Associated Press news agency that “all the preparations are on track and run according to the schedule,” and that “organisers are confident that the inaugural Russian Grand Prix will be comfortable for all.”

Sochi's Olympic Park circuit is located in southern Russia, around 335 miles from the crash site.