With Bernie Ecclestone’s criminal trial in Germany just over a month away and having himself opened up the discussion on possible successors, it has emerged that former Sainsbury’s CEO Justin King is favourite with bookmakers for the role, ahead of Richard Scudamore or the Premier League and Red Bull boss Christian Horner.
At this stage CVC Capital Partners, who would be tasked with deciding in the event that Ecclestone needed replacing, have said nothing beyond what CVC Co-Chairman Donald Mackenzie told London’s High Court in November during the Constantin Medien case,
“It won’t be easy (to find a successor). And we’re still thinking of one, trying to find one.”
City sources insist that CVC are waiting to see what arises in the trial. King, who quit Sainsbury’s recently, has let it be known via friends in motorsport that he would be interested in the role, while Horner has been anointed by Ecclestone himself, but has said he wouldn’t want the job and his employers Red Bull have said they want him to stay in his current role. In addition, Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo will have a say in it as he has negotiated a veto right over the CEO in Ferrari’s bilateral deal with F1 Management.
I asked Dennis yesterday if he thought that King would be suitable for the role; he began by assessing the situation,
“Bernie is Bernie, he has his approach to the task of optimising the commercial aspects of Grand Prix racing, ” said Dennis. “He’s all of the things that most of the world thinks he is; alternative style, very determined. Probably one of the best negotiators the world has ever seen. Whatever unfolds for Bernie inevitably there will be a time when he isn’t involved in F1. Whether that’s in the next few months or a few years isn’t for me to say. I know him well. I consider him a mix of friend and foe. We’ve had some wonderful tussles.
“Courts of law exist to determine rights and wrongs and it’s not for me to judge what the outcome might be. But if it’s the outcome of that or old age, there will be a successor.
“At this stage no-one needs to be considered (for the role). F1 is going to outlive anyone in it.
“As for the suitability of Justin. I know him well. Competence in business is competence in business. But it’s a pretty steep learning curve that he would be faced with. But of course he has the passion for motorsport. It’s not a decision I’ll be taking. I have an opinion of course, but not much influence. It’s not for me to say who Bernie’s successor will be, as and when it happens.”