Lloyds-Backed Firm In Silverstone Deal Talks
A private equity firm owned by the state-backed Lloyds Banking Group is in talks to buy a big stake in Silverstone, the spiritual home of British motorsport, Sky News can reveal.
LDC, which owns shareholdings in some of the UK's best-known companies, is in advanced negotiations about a deal, which is expected to be announced within weeks.
People familiar with the Silverstone transaction said on Tuesday that it would be structured as two separate agreements with the present owner, the British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC).
LDC will invest millions of pounds in backing a management buyout of Silverstone Circuits, the entity which promotes and hosts the British Grand Prix, while MEPC, a property group owned by the BT pension fund, will acquire the development land around the site.
The BRDC struck a 17-year agreement to stage the British GP in 2009, paving the way for the redevelopment of the Northamptonshire circuit.
Under the proposals contained in planning applications which received outline permission in 2011, hundreds of acres of land surrounding the racetrack will be redeveloped to create a business and science park, with three hotels also expected to be built there.
MEPC's interest in Silverstone was first reported in June by Property Week, a trade title, which said the MEPC deal would be valued at £40m.
The price-tag attached to Silverstone Circuits is less clear. One source familiar with LDC's talks said the two deals with the BRDC were "inter-related" and that the value of LDC's investment had yet to be finalised.
If the talks result in a concrete agreement, LDC's investment in Silverstone would not be its first exposure to motorsport. The private equity firm, which also owns stakes in the restaurant group established by Sir Terence Conran and Uswitch, the price comparison website, sold a minority stake in the loss-making Marussia F1 team earlier this year.
The BRDC's 800 members, who include former British F1 world champions such as Damon Hill and Lewis Hamilton, would have to approve the Silverstone sale before it is completed. The club is expected to use the proceeds from the sale of the site, which it will then lease back, to invest in revamping many of the facilities at the racetrack.
Silverstone staged its first race in 1948 and in addition to the annual F1 Grand Prix it hosts race weekends for most of the year. For many years it was the subject of speculation that it would lose the right to host F1 races but persuaded Bernie Ecclestone, the sport's boss, that it had a credible plan for a multimillion pound facelift.
LDC declined to comment on the talks, while PriceWaterhouseCoopers, which is advising the BRDC, also declined to comment.
The BRDC was unavailable for comment but in response to a story about the MEPC talks earlier this month, it said:
"[The BRDC] can confirm that it remains in discussion with parties interested in investing in Silverstone. Those discussions are progressing. Under the terms of non-disclosure agreements, the BRDC is not able to comment on any details or speculation surrounding potential investors."