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Formula One CEO Bernie Ecclestone said that $2.5B flotation of Formula One Holdings (F1) "could happen as early as next year," according to Patrick Harverson of the FINANCIAL TIMES. A "dispute" between Ecclestone and the 11 teams competing in F1 delayed the summer sale and had "led to speculation that Mr. Ecclestone would abandon the flotation." Ecclestone: "It's not a case of if, it's a case of when." Ecclestone added that "ideally he wanted the flotation to go ahead in early 1998, before the start of the next F1 season." Harverson reports that Ecclestone wants Salomon Brothers to "cut the time he would spend on a roadshow selling the issue to investors." As for a possible private sale, Ecclestone said that he had been approached by "one big company keen on buying a controlling stake in his business, but he was not interested." While he would not reveal the company, Harverson wrote that BSkyB "had shown an interest" in investing in F1 (FINANCIAL TIMES, 9/29).
As reported in yesterday's DAILY, CO-based Gart Sports Co. acquired IL-based Sportmart to form the second-largest sporting goods retailer in the U.S. Terms of the deal were not released, but Gart, which is controlled by the L.A. banking firm Leonard Green & Partners, will issue stock to Sportmart holders "representing" a 27.5% stake in the new company. The combined company, which will be "about" 60% controlled by Green, will look to be traded publicly on the NASDAQ. Yesterday, Sportmart shares on the NASDAQ dropped $1.1875, or 25%, to $3.5625 (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 9/30). REAX: In Denver, Penny Parker writes that Sportmart had seen "a dramatic downward slide" in its stock price from $10.063 in June '95 to its current state. Paine Webber analyst Aram Rubinson: "It helps bail Sportmart out of their own issues, but they're taking a price below the original market value. It doesn't change the fact that there are too many stores out there" (DENVER POST, 9/30). For FY '97, Gart reported a net income of $4.5M. Gart CEO Doug Morton, who will retain his title in the new company: "We built a lot of value in Gart. We're not in debt; we're profitable, that's unique in the industry." Sportmart and Gart stores will keep their own names and Denver will be the new corporate headquarters. Sportmart Chair Larry Hochberg, and his son, Sportmart CEO Andrew, will be elected to Gart's Board of Directors (Dina Bunn, ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, 9/30).