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Murdoch/Agnelli bid “To modernise F1″
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Murdoch/Agnelli bid “To modernise F1″
Posted By: James Allen  |  08 May 2011   |  10:17 am GMT  |  30 comments

This weekend has seen the News Corp story move on a little, with comments from FOTA president Martin Whitmarsh on Friday and Bernie Ecclestone on Saturday. In today’s Gazetta dello Sport one of the men bidding to buy the sport has made some comments too.


John Elkann is Gianni Agnelli’s grandson and he runs Exor the Agnelli family investment business, which owns Ferrari. Elkann has joined forces with James Murdoch to explore a move to buy the F1 commercial rights, a move which the parties announced last week.

This in itself surprised many people, it’s not common practice to announce that you are thinking of buying something, but Elkann explains that, “We are in the preliminary phase but we needed to make the statement to avoid leaks or misleading stories getting out,” It also had a galvanising effect on the teams and other stakeholders in the sport and will have alerted other potential buyers that they need to mobilise if they want to bid.

Elkann says that the reason why he and Murdoch are interested is because, “We want to give stability to a great sport like Formula 1 and contribute to its evolution,” These words could have been spoken by Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo, they are very much the kind of language he uses.

He adds that they are thinking, “In terms of exciting the public, in terms of modernisation of the sport, making the sport younger.

“Now with the people we are speaking to we need to decide if we can do something or not. “

As for Ron Dennis assertion that Exor owning the sport would be a conflict of interests, he said, “We’ll be very transparent and clear. Above all a group like ours which has strong interest in this world, seeks to do everything possible to ensure that this activity prospers in the future.”

Bernie Ecclestone had more dismissive words to say about the prospects of a takeover. He fundamentally believes that it will be very hard for the consortium to get their bid accepted by the EU Competition Commission. But he also continues to say that CVC isn’t selling and added that the Murdochs are struggling to buy the part of BSkyB that they don’t own already, so what chance do they have of winning F1? As for Whitmarsh’s suggestion that it is desirable for the teams to have an ownership stake in the sport he said,

“I hope these people come to their senses. The teams should be happy to have somebody like CVC not selling to the wrong people, trying to maintain a good level for them and supporting me so that I can go to work and earn some money for the teams.”

Meanwhile also in the Italian papers today Flavio Briatore says that he can see why Elkann and Murdoch want F1, “ The interest comes about because F1 is a source of profit. Investing in football is a bottomless pit (in comparison). I think it’s natural that there would be interest and that there are people looking. It’s an attractive investment.”

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30 Comments
  1. jmv says:

    It will be nice to see Bernie win this (what could be his last) game of poker, with the same old tactics:
    - dropping hints that Murdoch cant get his act together so why trust a party like that
    - and making use of the team’s distrust of each other. If Exor is leading, then Ferrari is to get surely a favorable deal. McLaren is now growing in stature, history, legacy and taking it into the car market… so why should McLaren not be on same terms as Ferrari.

    I thought for a moment that Bernie was out but he came out with his first series of destablizing comments. I wouldn’t be surprised if Dennis and Briatore are part of Bernie’s counter momentum.

    If I read Briatore’s comments well, he says: Murdoch and Exer are in it basically for the profit.. not the rejuvenation aspect of F1.

    If Bernie is cornered and smart, he cuts a deal with the teams for them to get some better %. Why break a longstanding marriage? If all you have to do is give a bit more leeway (that you know the other party deserves)

    1. Sebee says:

      Which is why Bernie is is a worse position here possibly than historically.
      Teams win more % if he wants them to stay.
      Teams win while bidding because they can devalue by not signing up for 2013.
      If they are bidding to buy from CVC they have control of the value, as any competing bidder would be crazy to bid without a long term 2013 Concorde in place, and what possible reasons do teams have to sign it – so that competing bidders bid above them?

      This ownership issue will have to be resolved before Concorde is. If teams stay united, I’m not sure CVC and Bernie are in a strong position this time.

      I remind you – 3 car option quickly fixes issues. Or even 4 cars – 2 teams from each manufacturer will easily fill up the grid. This is why it’s key to get top teams. We could argue if 4 Mclaren cars is better than 2 plus two
      HRTs, and I’m sure there would be different views on that. But bottom line – 4 top teams 4 cars each quickly equals 16 cars on the grid. Others would surely follow to the sport where those four race.

  2. . says:

    Ferrari can’t win in fair circumstances so their boss decides to buy F1 so they can win in it.

    LMAO.

    1. Doc-ric says:

      Don’t forget that during the Ferrari and Schumacher era FIA changed the rules to interrupt their long winning streak. The same had happened before to other teams. So I don’t believe this FIA=Ferrari complaints.
      Treat the potential bid as a different thing.
      How come so many fans complain about ecclestone and his new tilke-tracks and when there’s a (potential!) by people who claim to favor classic european and american circuits there’s this negative response?
      The deal’s not set in stone either.

  3. jonrob says:

    ““We want to give stability to a great sport like Formula 1 and contribute to its evolution,” These words could have been spoken by Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo, they are very much the kind of language he uses.”

    Then how very much like a politician Luca would be if he had indeed said the above,
    whereas the opposite would be the result.
    A change of ownership would throw all balls up in the air leaving no one certain where they stood, change is not stability! The audience being cut by a very large percentage would result in a mass exit of sponsors.

    Then to look at “contributing to the sport’s evolution,” is it not Ferrari who don’t want to change engines? who in fact want to keep the rules the same. (Tilted in their favour in the concorde agreement.)

    Flav’s comment about football being a bottomless pit is a change from the “how to become a millionaire joke”. “Start off as a billionaire and go into motor racing.”

    It is amusing to see the comments by some team members that the teams should own the sport. They ought to cast their minds back to when they did.

    1. Sebee says:

      We have to be careful in dramatizing the TV issue – it would be crazy for any owners to reduce the viewership and devalue the sport.

      This will never happen. No one spends billions just to put the whole thing on subscription. But they could offer a suplentary service with more content for many who would pay. Personally I would not.

      1. brooza says:

        ” But they could offer a suplentary service with more content for many who would pay.”

        The last 10 laps of the race, perhaps?

  4. Bill Day says:

    Choosing between CVC and anything Murdoch: Like choosing between Lucifer and… well… Lucifer.

    1. Red5 says:

      Well spotted.

      If his F1 bid falls through perhaps QPR would be an attractive alternative for Elkann.

  5. Chris R says:

    We are looking at the next chapter in F1, a new set of rules and the end of Bernie’s reign.

    F1 is for sale and we will see who wants it.

    Question is, will it be a friend of Bernie’s or an offer that satisfies CVC’s projections.

  6. Andy H says:

    Ecclestones comment show just what dinosaur he has become, he is desparately clinging to his influence and power.
    It is after all not his call. CVC owns 63%, not Ecclestone, by the nature of the beast they are money men and F1 is just a commodity. With this in mind will CVC take a cut, retain their interest in F1 and give more to the teams? My answer would be NO.
    For CVC its all about money and Ecclestone can say what he wants, its not his call.
    His chat on the Beeb with Jake and Eddie was just a joke. Who does he think he’s kidding with that rubbish about Turkey. It may be a good venue but has no crowds, so is not viable for the Turks. Is FOM going to take a cut?NO. BE says it needs more promotion, what an admission! [mod], isnt that his job? If FOM wont take a cut to keep the GP, then its not his call, its the Turks.
    Its all about Ecclestone, only in his mind. These things are out of his control and he doesnt like it.
    Just my opinion of course,
    Andy

  7. Mark L says:

    “We want to give stability to a great sport like Formula 1 and contribute to its evolution,”

    What a load of bull. Who is he trying to kid? It’s just insulting to F1 fans, who are a fairly intelligent bunch, to come out with that kind of tosh. Anyone with half a brain knows the bottom line with any investor is making money!

    I wouldn’t trust these people as far as I could throw them.

    1. Sebee says:

      I thInk we have some romantic view of F1.
      It’s branded cars racing each other getting us to view their brands punctuated by commercials.

      Of course it’s all about the money. I don’t think we can grasp the insulting amounts in question here, the backend deals, the marketing dollars, etc. Of course there are people who would want to own it. But no one would want to unless the can control the teams. This has been Mr. E’s strength. One which appears to no longer exist.

      The more I bounce this around my brain ( while brushing teeth for example) the more I am convinced that this time it’s different. I think that teams will go to CVC and want to buy out. They will say sell or we can’t promise you well be there 2013. They will offer a discounted offer – one no one can bid against because they can’t be sure teams will show up. If they don’t succeed they can start their own championship – this is where Sky helps because instantly they have a party interested in the rights.

      I said it before and I’ll say it again F1 fans. Buckle up – this time it will get serious.

  8. Thomas, Calgary says:

    There is clearly a lot of negativity to this potential change in ownership and I suspect much comes from UK fans who are spoiled by the BBC coverage (I here it is wonderful).

    Most places around the world already pay to watch F1 – in Canada F1 is only available on a subscription sports channel and I know it is the same in the US. The coverage sucks.

    What if someone came along and revolutionized the way we watch the sport, would that be a good thing? Bernie is too old to appreciate the potential of the internet and F1 took a long time to get HD.

    How about a web site you can access from anywhere in the world and get access to fantastic race weekend coverage, interviews, race archives, etc? I for one would buy into that.

    I think there is an opportunity here for some new blood to come in and take F1 viewing to another level – F1 is the cutting edge of motor racing, its about time it was at the cutting edge of how we watch the sport as well.

    1. dingbat says:

      Spot on!!! With so much new and exciting technology in web development and programming it’s sad to see that the official F1 site is still such a dinosaur and that most people have to rely on so many other sites for timings, clips, updates, commentary etc…We have been paying for F1 in South Africa for years now. F1 has been pay to view since 2002 here…I think.

    2. Andy c says:

      Sky came along and revolutionised football and tge premier league with billions of pound flooding in.

      Only problem is 75% of the clubs spend more than they earn.

      This is not the future I want for f1.

      I know I’m being simplistic, but I firmly believe in free to air. We pay license fees for tv in the uk, and unless you like soap operas or diy programmes, sport is the only good thing (and news) for your money :-)

      We are very very lucky to have the BBC coverage. It is first class (although personally much rather see James alongside brundle). If dc tells me about drs causing a 10-15% shift in balance I’m going to throw my shoe ;-)

    3. RickeeBoy says:

      Agree about using the web as a new form of income but you have to get the punters in every way possible – Sky monthly charges plus huge advert fees during the GP. ( Sky has now realised that they make a double whammee with monthly sub + have now added adverts ) So expect a Streaming service to include the fee, the cars covered in adverts, breaks for adverts, and commentators to be covered in adverts. ( Oh ! and even the Pit Girls bulgy bits to be covered in adverts ) and the owners / BE / the teams / the drivers / the mechanics / the commentators / the photographers / the everybody are now wanting a bit of this pie so the interests in shaking this lot to an agreement ……… Is like watching a gigantic true Political drama unfold. It’s early stages at the moment. So who get shot dead and who gets the girl ?????

      Thanks Beeb for the best TV ever – love it while it lasts. X X X X X X

  9. Rich C says:

    “We want to give stability to a great sport like Formula 1 and contribute to its evolution…”

    What a laugh, who are they kidding? They just want to make money.

    So… these ppl that probably know nothing about F1 are going to modernize it?

    Well then they’ll need a new Bernie, somebody to do that for them that knows all about it.

    Now who could that be… Hey how about somebody like that guy… what’s his name… “Luca” something-or other!

    Yeah, he’d be perfect. If he’s not busy ruining Italy maybe *he could ruin F1!!

    {err…. sorry, I meant “running”}

    1. Flakey says:

      I have to agree about your modernization worries, along with the younger quote they made,it just makes me think of “F1 X-treme”. New, trendy, cutting edge. I shudder at that thought.

      1. Rich C says:

        Yep.
        If ppl think F1 is getting too ‘artificial’ now, just wait for *that!
        Anything “X-Treme” is some totally made-up event to pander to teeny-boppers and should never be mistaken for a real sport.

  10. futuremodern says:

    I think a lot of the comments are childish and illogical. First off, the business of business is making a solid return on your investment. If Elkann and Murdoch are willing to sink a great deal of investment into F1, then it goes without saying that they expect to make some profit. A business that creates a healthy level of profit is a stable business that can weather financial crises. In today’s world terrestrial television is not the king anymore, and if F1 wants to stay a profitable business, it needs to evolve and get with the program. It needs to embrace the online world and it needs to diversify into other media. Motogp, for example, lets individuals buy a season pass to watch the races online, and sbk interacts with its fans through short youtube videos. Formula One, on the other hand, is busy removing fan uploaded F1 videos. The online world is a big world. Berni and CVC are stupid for not experimenting with it. I for one welcome the takeover bid.

    1. Rich C says:

      No, I’m sorry.

      It is well-known that profit = evil.

      We want pure “sport” with ‘glory’ as its only reward.

  11. Andy C says:

    James,

    I tweeted you on this ironically last week.

    I’d like to see all of the teams buy the sport, not just a parent company of one of the teams. Then setup a board of trustees to run the sport, headed up by someone like Sir Jackie or anoher retired figurehead from the past.

    On the Sky and Agnelli interest, if the Glaziers went and said they wanted to buy the premier league, I’d expect a similar level of challenge from the public and rival teams.

    Didnt sky try to buy Man Utd at one point, and have their takeover blocked for potential conflict of interest?

    Having worked in an organisation owned by the Murdochs, I can’t claim to be their biggest fan.

    1. Rich C says:

      Andy it would be the death of F1.

      Thats exactly the scenario that lead to the ‘death’ of open-wheel racing in the states: the inmates were running the asylum.

      The IRL – a 100% spec series is still with us, but CART, despite better cars, better tracks, better drivers, better everything, is no more. For one simple reason – the teams owned it.

      If a Camel is a racehorse designed by a committee, then CART was a race series *run by a committee.

      1. Andy c says:

        I’m not proposing Martin whitmarsh runs it. I’d put more trust in the teams than James murdoch ! :-)

        He’s got a clever dad, granted ….But would you want him running f1.

  12. Born 1950 says:

    “Exciting the public…making the sport younger…”

    Why does this sort of talk send a shudder of revulsion up my spine?

  13. futuremodern says:

    c’mon guys…there is a reason why we wear watches on our wrists–to keep with the time. It is time that F1 moved on.

    1. Rich C says:

      You still wear a watch??

  14. A-P says:

    A device that, amongst so many other features, does interesting things with race data also has an app that tells me the time when I need to know it. You still wear a watch on your wrist? How anachronistic!

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