x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Murdoch explores F1 takeover with Ferrari backer

Private equity firm CVC Capital Partners, which has owned the rights to F1 since 2006, said it has received a "friendly" approach from News Corp

Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone insists the sport is not for sale after Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation and Italy’s Exor confirmed they were considering forming a consortium to mount a possible takeover.

Ecclestone said he believed Formula One’s current owners, the private equity company CVC, had no interest in selling their control of the sport.

Ecclestone, 80, who serves as CVC’s F1 chief executive, said he was surprised neither News Corporation, nor Exor, which owns 30 per cent of Italian car maker Fiat, the parent company of Ferrari, had inquired to see if a sale was possible.

“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,” Ecclestone said.

“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 per cent.”

Ecclestone had dismissed previous reports of Murdoch’s interest in Formula One as “rubbish” and said any offer would need to be “ridiculous”.

However, Ecclestone hinted that any offer above the £1.6 billion (Dh5.8bn) CVC paid for Formula One in 2006 would need to be considered fully by CVC management.

“If somebody comes along and offered them [CVC] a lot more money than it’s worth, they would obviously say ‘Sit down, let’s have a chat’,” Ecclestone said.

“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 [the Mexican billionaire] Carlos Slim, and now we’ve a new one.”

In a statement on Tuesday, News Corp and Exor said they were “in the early stages of exploring the possibility of creating a consortium with a view to formulating a long-term plan for the development of Formula One”.

“Over the coming weeks and months, Exor and News Corporation will approach potential minority partners and key stakeholders in the sport,” they said.

“There can be no certainty that this will lead to an approach to Formula One’s current owners.”

Who owns F1 and how much of it

The private equity firm CVC Capital Partners have had the majority shareholding in the Formula One Group that owns the series since 2006.

They have approximately 70 per cent of the shareholding. They employ Formula One Management (FOM) to run the day-to-day running of the sport, with Bernie Ecclestone, serving the role of FOM president.

The other shareholders in F1 are the firm JP Morgan, who have around 20 per cent, and Ecclestone’s family trust, which has 10 per cent.

After that there are a number of small shares owned by advisers and other parties, which reportedly includes Ecclestone.