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Ecclestone states confidence in job security amid F1 takeover

Formula One chief executive Bernie Ecclestone has said he has been asked to stay on for three years after the impending takeover of the motor racing series is completed by the Liberty Media group.

The 85-year-old long-time head of F1 has seen his position called into question in recent weeks, as takeover speculation has intensified. However, he told the Reuters news agency today (Wednesday): “They want me to be here for three years.”

Multiple media reports have suggested the first part of a deal between Liberty Media and Formula One’s current controlling shareholder, private equity group CVC Capital Partners, could be announced today. However, Ecclestone said the timeframe remains unclear.

“Honestly, I don't think anybody knows – including our friends from Liberty, and (CVC chairman) Donald (Mackenzie),” Ecclestone said.

The Briton, who himself holds a stake in the sport of around five per cent, added that he expects the deal to go through and will not travel to next weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix due to the talks. He said: “Because all this is going through, they (CVC) want me to be there (in London) to help them with all sorts of things. I can't afford to be away for five to six days.”

Reuters said a Formula One board meeting is scheduled for next Tuesday, by which time the deal should have been finalised and a new chairman introduced. This is widely expected to be media industry veteran Chase Carey, the former president and chief operating officer of media company 21st Century Fox.

Carey is set to replace Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, the 71-year-old chairman of food and drinks giant Nestle, and Ecclestone signalled his willingness to work with his potential new colleague. He said: “He (Carey) can do lots of things that I haven't done with this social media, which he seems to be in touch with. He's been dealing with sponsorship with his TV people. Between us we'll get on with it.”

Any takeover deal will be subject to approval from the International Automobile Federation (FIA) and other global motorsport series, as well as European anti-trust regulators. The FIA holds a one per cent stake in Formula One's parent company Delta Topco, which the Forbes website said could be worth around $90m (€80.7m) and has been noted as a possible conflict of interest.

F1 is already under the regulatory spotlight after the Force India and Sauber teams in September 2015 filed an official complaint to the European Union’s Competition Commission concerning the championship’s governance and revenue distribution model. The two teams are battling what they claim is a privileged financial position bestowed upon the sport’s five biggest teams – Ferrari, Mercedes, Red Bull, McLaren and Williams – by CVC.

As a result, Ecclestone said he expects the European Commission to take a closer look at the sport. He added: “It's like the police. You get stopped for a rear light and they want to know if you've got a driving license and insurance. So I don't know what effect that will have.”