Paolo Flammini

Paolo Flammini

 

WSB up for sale

By Gary Pinchin -

World Superbikes

 20 February 2007 10:04

The new World Superbike championship campaign gets underway this Saturday in Qatar, but it could be news off the track hitting the headlines after rumours emerged that Italian owners could be willing to sell the series.

WSB owners FG Sport are reported to have instructed American company Merrill Lynch to conduct an auction for the series with a price tag thought to be around £50million.

Venture capital company, Bridgepoint is hotly-tipped to table a bid to acquire the series, although they might face scrutiny from the monopolies commission as they already have controlling stakes in MotoGP and BSB.

A deal to buy World Superbikes would effectively give them control of world road racing.

Bridgepoint paid around £350million to acquire Dorna last summer after previous owners CVC were forced to relinquish the Spanish-based company. That followed a directive made by the European Commission after they acquired the majority shareholding in the Formula One world championship.

This would not be the first time that WSB has changed hands. The series was the brainchild of former AMA Superbike racer Steve McLaughlin and ran for the first time in 1988 under the guidance New Zealand-based Sports Marketing Company.

When they hit financial problems it was sold to the Flammini brothers, Maurizio and Paolo, in 1990. Investment by Indonesian Tommy Suharto helped re-finance the series in 1996. Octagon then bought WSB from the Flammini brothers in 1998 but sold it back to them in 2003, the brothers continuing to run the series throughout the period.

After several lean years for the series, prospects for 2007 seem better than ever, with a grid featuring box office names Troy Bayliss, Troy Corser, Noriyuki Haga, James Toseland and ex-MotoGP hero Max Biaggi.

Neither Maurizio nor Paolo Flammini was available to discuss why they would want to put the series up for sale at this time.