Canadian Fashion Tycoon Eyes Lehman F1 Stake
One of the global fashion industry's most successful entrepreneurs has become the latest tycoon to hold talks about investing in Formula One (F1) motor racing, even as the sport's long-serving boss stands trial on bribery charges.
Sky News has learnt that Lawrence Stroll, who has held the marketing rights to brands including Ralph Lauren, Pepe Jeans and Tommy Hilfiger, has been in discussions in recent weeks about buying a minority stake in F1's parent company.
Mr Stroll, a Canadian whose wealth is estimated at $2.7bn (£1.6bn) by Forbes magazine, is understood to have held talks with the estate of the bankrupted Wall Street investment bank Lehman Brothers about acquiring part or all of its 15% stake in F1.
The talks are understood to have been ongoing for several weeks, although sources indicated that they had broken down in recent days amid a disagreement about the value of the stake.
A motor racing enthusiast, much of Mr Stroll's wealth was derived from his successful leadership of Michael Kors, the North American fashion house, which he took public in 2011.
He is understood to be keen to build a stake in F1, although it is unclear whether doing so would be a prelude to seeking active involvement in the management of the sport.
CVC Capital Partners, the private equity firm which is the biggest shareholder in Delta Topco, F1's owner, sold a large part of its stake in 2012 to outside investors including Norway's sovereign wealth fund, and BlackRock, the world's largest asset manager.
Those transactions valued F1 at approximately $9bn (£5.3bn), and Lehman is understood to have sought a similar valuation for its stake, which Mr Stroll is so far understood to be unwilling to match.
News of Mr Stroll's interest has emerged as the bribery trial of F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone got underway in Munich on Thursday.
The charges facing the F1 supremo relate to a $44m (£27m) payment to Gerhard Gribkowsky, a banker who was involved in organising F1's sale to CVC nearly a decade ago.
Mr Gribkowsky, whose employment by a state-owned bank meant that he was deemed to have been a public servant, was subsequently jailed for eight years. He may appear as a witness at Mr Ecclestone's trial.
The F1 chief executive, who has consistently denied any wrongdoing, has conceded that he made the relevant payments to Mr Gribkowsky, but said he had done so because he was concerned that the receipient would otherwise make unfounded allegations about his tax affairs to Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
Sky News revealed last month that F1's shareholders were to be paid a £200m dividend, roughly £24m of which will be paid to Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.
A stock market flotation of F1, which was aborted in 2012 because of the eurozone crisis, is unlikely until after Mr Ecclestone's trial and any resulting questions of management succession are resolved.
Mr Stroll could not be reached for comment on Thursday.