F1 boss says his Montreal demands were fair
The head of Formula One racing has a retort for a city so infuriated with him that a leading newspaper carried an editorial cartoon Wednesday that depicts him being tortured.
Bernie Ecclestone says he isn't greedy.
The F1 czar told a Montreal radio station that he loves the city, that he hopes its popular annual race will return there and that his cash demands have been fair.
He scoffed when an interviewer for CJAD asked whether his demand — reportedly $175 million over five years, plus advertising and attendance revenues — was unreasonable.
Ecclestone said many other places around the world pay far more to host the race. He said the offer to Montreal was actually a steal, compared with what others pay.
Mayor Gerald Tremblay had called it unreasonable.
"Unreasonable compared to what?" Ecclestone replied in his radio interview.
"We do business worldwide and nobody else thinks we're unreasonable. We've got a queue of people that want races. So we can't be unreasonable."
Other GP venues struggling
Financial troubles are in fact plaguing F1 elsewhere.
France's current Grand Prix has been dropped from the schedule because of poor attendance, Australia's event is reporting record losses, and China is reportedly reconsidering the event in Shanghai.
The Montreal race was dropped from the 2009 schedule when federal, provincial and municipal officials balked at Ecclestone's cash demands.
The race generated an estimated $100 million for the city, and the downtown core was so full of festivities that some streets became giant block parties for days.
The annual influx of international partygoers into Montreal's hotels, restaurants and watering holes also offered a splashy morale boost to a city that had lost its baseball team and status as Canada's business capital.
But in recent years Montrealers had became accustomed to seemingly annual crisis talks where Ecclestone threatened to cancel the race over financial differences with local organizers.
Despite the overwhelming popularity of the event, few locals have expressed any desire for the government to meet Ecclestone's cash demands.
An editorial cartoon in Wednesday's Montreal La Presse summed up local anger toward Ecclestone.
It ran under the headline: "What event would best replace the Montreal Grand Prix?" Its conclusion was medieval torture.
The cartoon showed a man in a black hood standing above Ecclestone and stretching out his limbs over a rack, with a mob of locals cheering in the background.
'Everyone in F1 loves Montreal'
While Montrealers might not feel much affection for him, Ecclestone said he adores their city.
He said he wants the race back. In fact, he said he told Canadian officials they could replace any race on the schedule if they met his financial demands.
"Everyone in Formula One loves Montreal," Ecclestone told CJAD.
"I said [to organizers] you can come to my office, pull any contract out of that drawer for all the overseas races, take any one of them, cross out the name and put your name, and that's what we'll do.
"Because what was offered them was less than we get anywhere else in the world."
He refused to discuss specifics of his offer — and said he didn't appreciate details of contract negotiations being leaked into the public domain.
Canadian officials said he guaranteed the race for five years in exchange for $175 million and 100 per cent of the revenues linked to corporate boxes and advertising on the circuit.
They offered him $110 million over five years plus a cut of the annual profits — but Ecclestone refused.
Canadian racing officials had been in a previous dispute with Ecclestone over whether they had fulfilled the obligations of their existing contract.
The F1 boss argued he was owed $24 million by the race's previous promoters, and would have forgiven the outstanding sum had he reached a new deal with Canadian organizers.
The Canadians came away from last-minute negotiations expressing frustration. But when asked to describe the tone of their talks Ecclestone replied with glowing terms: "Good. Nice. Beautiful."
And as for the future of the race: "Of course we would [want it back] — we didn't want to lose it."