Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation and an Italian-based investment firm have combined for a possible bid to take control of Formula One, it was revealed Tuesday.
Formula One’s owners have been approached by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. about a potential joint takeover bid with the investors behind Ferrari, the sport’s oldest team.
In a joint statement, News Corp. and Exor said said they are discussing the “possibility of creating a consortium with a view to formulating a long-term plan for the development of Formula One in the interests of the participants and the fans.”
Exor, controlled by the Agnelli family who run the car giant Fiat which in turn owns Ferrari, has confirmed it is exploring the prospect of putting together a takeover bid with News Corporation.
“Over the coming weeks and months, Exor and News Corporation will approach potential minority partners and key stakeholders in the sport. There can be no certainty that this will lead to an approach to Formula One’s current owners.”
CVC maintains that it is not actively trying to sell F1, but a statement opens the door to future takeover talks.
Any takeover would involve changes to the Concorde Agreement, a commercial arrangement involving the racing teams, CVC and the sport’s governing body, the FIA.
This agreement says that the sport should be shown on free-to-air television where possible.
However, the agreement runs out at the end of 2012, and the signatories are in the process of negotiating a new one.
Ecclestone said: “You would think if somebody wanted to buy it they would approach the people who own it to see if they want to sell it. Personally, I know CVC don’t want to sell, so it’s going to be a bit difficult. I can see CVC in for the long haul, absolutely, 100%.”
However, reiterating the “ridiculous” offer line, Ecclestone added: “If somebody came along and offered them a lot more money than it’s worth, they would obviously say: ‘Sit down, let’s have a chat.’ But I get the distinct feeling that’s not going to happen. I can’t understand why a company as big as News Corp need to keep looking for partners.
First it was Carlos Slim, and now we’ve a new one.”
If any bid is made, a potential sticking point is the Concorde agreement, the arrangement that binds together the teams, the governing body – the FIA – and CVC. A clause in the agreement stipulates transmission of races must be via free-to-air broadcasters, rather than subscription services such as Murdoch’s Sky network.