LONDON (Reuters) - Formula One Chief Executive Bernie Ecclestone has identified Red Bull team boss Christian Horner as the man he wants to succeed him when he finally relinquishes his grip on the sport.
Ecclestone, who has built Formula One into a global money spinner over the past four decades, has always dismissed talk of retirement but is now 83 and is facing legal challenges relating to a 2005 business deal.
"Christian would be ideal," Ecclestone told reporters at the Brazilian Grand Prix in Sao Paulo in comments published in British newspapers on Friday.
"I would be happy to hold his hand. We could have a transitional period. It needs someone who knows the sport."
Private equity firm CVC, the largest shareholder in Formula One, declined to comment on the reports.
CVC co-chairman Donald Mackenzie told London's High Court this week that Ecclestone would be a hard act to follow and that CVC did not have anyone specific in mind to succeed him.
Referring to the need to line up a potential replacement, given Ecclestone's age, Mackenzie said, "It won't be easy. And we're still thinking of one, trying to find one."
Mackenzie said that CVC would sack Ecclestone if he was found guilty of wrongdoing in his dealings with a jailed German banker.
Settling the issue of a successor to Ecclestone would make it easier to float the business on the stock exchange, an ultimate aim for CVC.
Horner, 40, is a Briton like Ecclestone and the two men get along well. Horner's team, backed by the Austrian soft drinks firm, has dominated Formula One for the past four seasons through its world champion driver Sebastian Vettel.
Ecclestone said he would not favour handing over the role to someone from outside Formula One. "If someone comes in from outside, a corporate type, I don't think I could work with them. It wouldn't last five minutes," he said.
British media have speculated that Justin King, chief executive of supermarket group J.Sainsbury Plc and Premier League soccer chief executive Richard Scudamore could be external candidates for the role.
King's teenage son is an up-and-coming racing driver while Scudamore has helped to seal record global TV rights deals for England's top soccer clubs.