As Bernie Ecclestone’s trial begins in Munich, there have been a lot of reports about the rise to power of Ms Sacha Woodward-Hill, the Chief Legal Officer of the Formula One group.
There have been various confused stories suggesting that she is an Australian, and even one I saw that reckoned she came from Austria. The truth is rather less glamorous. Ms Woodward Hill was born in Hendon, Middlesex in 1969. Her father was called Hill and her mother Woodward and thus she adopted the two names. She was educated at Ashford School in Kent and won a place at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge to study law in 1987.
After graduating with an MA in law in 1990 she began working to qualify as a solicitor with the venerable London law firm Taylor Joynson Garrett. After qualifying in 1993 she stayed with the company for a couple of years before moving to Allen & Overy in 1995 and then the Formula One group in 1996. The confusion over her nationality appears to come from the fact that she replaced Australian lawyer Judith Griggs at that time, as Griggs went back to Australia to become the first CEO of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation. She would later return to Europe and until recently was Chief Operating Officer of Allsport Management, a Formula One group company, based in Geneva.
Woodward Hill became head of Formula One legal affairs in 2001 and is thus well-versed in the ways of the Formula One group, after 18 years in the business.
Although Ecclestone has sometimes talked of being replaced by a woman, it is still thought likely that if Ecclestone is replaced it will be by an outsider. The business continues to do very well.
The apologists for the Formula One group are currently trying to make out that although the Formula One group as a whole generates $1.7 billion a year, the profits are down because the teams are taking more money.
It is true that the teams are taking about six percent more than they were getting in 2012, as a result of the new Concorde Agreement deals, but this cannot be blamed for the drop of 32 percent in the profits. The reality is that the company seems to have loaned most of its profits to other companies in the group as a way of reducing its tax burden. The argument that further money was given to the FIA is also misconstrued as the federation did not get an additional $40 million as has been suggested. In fact the FIA was already getting $11.5 million a year from FOM and this fee was increased by $13.5 million. There was a one-off $5 million signing fee for the federation as part of the Concorde Agreement deal but the FIA had to pay back $460,000 of this in order to buy a one percent share in the Formula One group, which was included in the deal.
The additional FIA money to get its revenues up to $40 million from F1 was screwed out of the teams and the drivers in entry and superlicence fees that amounted to an extra $6 million per annum.