Street Fight
Monte Carlo 2018
Monaco Grand Prix
F1 – For sale or not for sale?
F1 – For sale or not for sale?
Posted By: James Allen  |  04 May 2011   |  7:27 pm GMT  |  99 comments

The last 24 hours have seen some interesting twists in the story of a possible takeover of Formula 1 by News Corporation.

Last night we had a joint statement from News Corp and Exor, the Agnelli family company which owns a stake in FIAT and Ferrari, saying that 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 in the interests of the participants and the fans.”

(Photo: Darren Heath)

They added, “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.”

This afternoon CVC, which owns 75% of the company which holds the commercial rights to F1, responded respectfully, but firmly, “CVC recently received an approach from the Exor/News Corporation consortium. James Murdoch has informed us the approach is friendly, at a very preliminary stage, and they acknowledge Formula One is privately owned by CVC and not currently for sale.

“CVC recognises the quality of Exor and News Corporation as potential investors, but any investment in Formula One will require CVC’s agreement and will need to demonstrate that it is in the interest of the sport and its stakeholders, taken as a whole.”

It will also require the FIA’s approval under the famous “Don King” clause and FIA president Jean Todt has indicated recently that he’s looking for a better financial deal from the rights to Formula 1, which the FIA has contracted to FOM.

This story is evolving quite quickly, but there are a few points to make at this stage. First it sounds, from what I hear behind the scenes, as though the possibility of a deal is increasing.

But is it just the Murdoch’s and the Agnellis who are in this consortium or will there be funding from elsewhere?

With the historic links behind the scenes, Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo is clearly very involved in the News Corp/Exor consortium. But one wonders whether there is another partner quietly behind the scenes too, such as Abu Dhabi? Ecclestone came out with a curious quote yesterday where he said that although Abu Dhabi was supposedly interested in F1, he had heard nothing from them. Some think that the News Corp story is a ruse designed to flush out other interested parties, but what if Abu Dhabi was part of this consortium?

There are strong links with Ferrari and Mercedes, both of whom have been linked with this initiative and strong links with the Murdochs on many business levels.

Also there is the financial side, remember that News Corp is poised to take control of BSKYB, a deal which will cost in the region of £9 billion, if it goes through.

Normally they tend to like to act alone, without other partners who might tell them what to do, so the consortium here is an interesting step.

Another point worth bearing in mind is that when they bid for something the Murdochs tend to go for the “killer blow” offer, one that puts the deal beyond the reach of rivals, as they did with Dow Jones and the Wall Street Journal recently.

As to why this is all happening now, there are two reasons from F1’s point of view. First, the 100 year agreement between FIA and FOM only came into force at the start of this year, so the rights are now in place for 100 years and as Jean Todt said recently, the deal is legally watertight and cannot be unpicked. Getting to this point, after all the breakaway talk in 2009, was important for CVC from an onward sale point of view.

Also the negotiations for the 2013 Concorde Agreement are getting underway now and after the end of 2012 everything is to play for.

An alliance with a media giant like News Corp presents other possibilities for the teams, led by Ferrari, were they to stay together. A major problem faced by any breakaway series is getting credible and lucrative TV deals together, so joining forces with a company which controls SKY in UK, Germany and Italy as well as Fox Sports in the Americas, Middle East and Australia and Star TV in Asia, presents a very strong hand.

So maybe this is a giant poker chip being played by Ferrari as the Concorde negotiations begin. CVC will not want to be left with 100 years of nothing.

Analysts are saying that the value of sports rights is set to increase in the future, driven by the way sport fits into people’s leisure time and also the multiplicity of new platforms for consuming sports coverage, like mobiles and the internet.

A bold company, which believes it can find the way to maximise those new media revenue streams is likely to see enormous potential in F1. Exor, which is run by 35 year old John Elkann and 38 year old James Murdoch may fancy that challenge.

Featured News
Editor's Picks
Share This:
Posted by:

Add comment

E-mail is already registered on the site. Please use the Login form or enter another.

You entered an incorrect username or password

Sorry that something went wrong, repeat again!

Notable for his lack of comment in this dirt-cloud of speculation is one Jean Todt, head of the FIA and something of a recluse it seems.

Non-one seems to be talking much about the FIA in all of this, but as I understand it Todt has at least asserted that the FIA does have a veto on the sale of F1 TV rights – James perhaps you can confirm this?

What I want to know is where the FIA stand on the any bid, and in particular if they are going to defend their own Formula from the potentially negative consequences of commercial over-exploitation, which could according to some at least, eventually kill F1.

For my part, my view is that News corp don’t have a Midas touch, and in terms of the UK coverage one of their main rivals just happens to be Virgin, who just happen to have an F1 team.

Here is an opportunity for Branson to wade in surely?

I think Sir Richard would do a far better job commercialising the sport, certainly in the UK, than the ‘antipodean’ octegenarian and an italian principal who thinks his team deserve special treatment.

Maybe Richard should have dinner with Jean…



Why don’t the teams all unite, pull there finger out and buy f1 equally amongst them or create a whole new championship. They can reform the whole sport and make billions at the same time. As you alluded to Merc and Ferrari are on the band wagon. With Mr Redbull not shy of the Dollar and Mclaren doing very well it makes logical sense. I personally think this should include Renault, Williams, Lotus, Virgin. These partners are also wealthy

The problem with F1 is not all the the cash goes back into f1. The structure and the way it is setup the teams and the countries hosting the races are losing millions.

Once the Concorde agreement expires, there is nothing holding the teams to the championship. They can walk away and the rights that CVC owns are worthless. The teams can formulate there own championship and get rid of stupid regs. (4 cylinder turbo charged engines.. This is a joke should be v10…) The teams can call it F1 or Formula 1 and Bernie the FIA or CVC cannot do anything about it. (recent court cases Bernie lost support this.) .

Furthermore there is nothing stopping the teams racing at the tracks. Bernie and CVC do not own all the tracks and im sure all the contracts with the different race tracks would have clauses like, Ferrari must compete for payment.

There will be nothing lost for the spectacle because people don’t watch the FIA f1 world championship because CVC or the FIA own it. They watch Formula 1 because of the drivers and cars.

This makes logical sense to me. When the individuals in this case the teams, are bigger then the business, (Bernie, FIA, CVC) they should control the sport. Not some puppets outside it. Bernie has done a great job, but it is now time for the teams to take control of something they created. They can appoint people outside the sport to run it. (Hell even employ Bernie and Flavio.) 80% of the revenue goes to the teams evenly. 15% goes to prize money. 5% goes to administration. Intially 80% will be the same income hey get now, however within 3 years this will triple. What are your thoughts..


You are right, of course, in some of what you say about the teams and there are many possibilities of how this Murdoch situation could go.


James, your Tweet directing readers to this site has given me a whole new view of F1’s commercial appeal. Not that I fully understand the possibilities behind such thinking, to be honest.


You liked it?


It continues to amuse me that most of the comments herein focus on the evil Murdoch and media issues.

The true “evil” would be 3-Car Monte owning/controlling F1.

If you think for 1 minute that’s not what this is all about you better think again.


This is unlikely to be a straight buy-out. It is, as hinted in the article, a ploy, an opening gambit.

So what can FIAT and Murdoch be considering? FOCA cannot start a breakaway series without income, and that includes TV rights. If Ferrari and Mclaren, and perhaps Todt, want to shake the yoke of CVC from their shoulders then what better way than threatening to take their business elsewhere?

The only thing that CVC has which is of itself valuable is the copyright to the F1 logo. Beyond that it could all turn to dust.

I’ll try to avoid any more cliches.

If the major teams move on to a new formula, under the auspices of the FIA, then CVC will be left with little to market. They might well see the value of their badge collapse.

I would probably pay to watch Ferrari, Red Bull, Renault, McLaren and others race, regardless of what it called itself.

If the rump that was left was just this year’s three new teams – and one at least is likely to follow the big guys – and perhaps Williams then I doubt I would bother switching it on even if it was subject of the BBC’s excellent coverage even if it had the F1 logo.

Something is going on that is quite revolutionary in our sport. We, of course, that’s the fans, have absolutely no control over the result.

I’m nervous. I certaily do not think F1, by any other name, is safe in the hands of Mudoch.


What bemuses me and amuses me in equal measure is that the top F1 teams want more control over their destiny, and dont believe they get a great deal out of the financial deal.

I would suggest that if F1 is something that is sold at the right price by CVC, that the F1 teams should buy it.

Why waste money setting up a rival series, when you can purchase the rights?

I would much rather it was in the hands of a trustee board running the teams (i.e someone like Sir Jackie as chairman), than Mr Murdock and any consortium.

I shouldnt really try to apply real world logic to F1 of course 😉 It’ll never work.


I’ve already shared my concerns about the Murdoch’s getting their hands on F1 in your earlier article about this James.

What worries me even more now is Ferrari’s involvement. We all know that in their eyes they think they run F1 because of their history in it. Sometimes their attitude seems to be that the ideal F1 for them would be to just have their cars on track so they are guaranteed a win.

If Ferrari get involved in owning F1 for real rather than simply behaving like they do then that could kills the sport even more than the Murdoch’s getting their greedy hands on it.

Michael Prestia

I only started watching F1 as a boy because it was on TV and it was free. If I had to pay I would have never started in the first place.

The coverage in Canada is HORRIBLE!!! I have to settle on TSN’s crappy coverage which is limited to 1hr of qualifying and the race. We do not get to see any interviews and pre race or post race shows… because TSN has to switch over to bowling or Poker after dark! And this year Rogers Cable has “blacked out” Speed TVs coverage in Canada.

However, horrible the coverage is in Canada it is free with your cable package so if they start to charge… even though I am a huge fan, F1 would lose me.


Fairly sure I read somewhere that Bernie includes clauses in the contracts requiring those signing to blacklist any events that are not FIA/FOM sanctioned. So if this applies to tracks and broadcasters…. where would any breakaway competition be held and what would we be watching it on???

I would like to know more about Bernies alleged right to veto… and for how many pieces of silver his morals can bought.


Let’s see, Murdoch owns FOX here in the states. NASCAR is free on FOX. Murdoch owns a majority stake in SpeedTV. F1 is free on SpeedTV.

Yeah, sounds like Murdoch is all about subscription fees.

Yes, you gotta pay for cable. Just like you gotta pay for a phone or the internet. If you think that is PPV, let me introduce you to the UFC. $50 for 2 hours on Saturday night.

Adrian Jordan

Yes but here in the UK Murdoch doesn’t offer any completely free channels to everyone. Heck, he even charges people to view The Times website…


Great read James, many thanks. To fan the flames a bit, I wonder if the timing of the bid is also connected to the legal proceedings in Germany. If it does come out that there were inappropriate conduct, wouldn’t CVC be best served by selling now before the value of F1 could suffer? Sky might be their easy way out.

Stephen Kellett

Part of the problem with the Murdoch empire, is putting pay TV issue to one side, they have proven themselves completely inept when it comes to the Internet.

The paid $580 million (or thereabouts) for MySpace. This morning an analyst from Enders Analysts reported on BBC Radio 4 that giving MySpace away for 1 dollar would result in a net benefit to News Corp. They purchased an asset and then mismanaged it into its grave, squandering half a billion dollars in the process.

Not very reassuring when it comes to the future of F1 and the Internet (which most people already thinks FOM handle badly).


myspace is completely different from f1


That Luca’s a clever a fellow.


Why do the teams not control the rights and cash themselves? Correct me if im wrong but I thought that FOCA or FOM or whatever they are called was established to get a fair deal for the teams?

This CVC apparently take something like 50% of the revenue for themselves. If the teams did it then they would get 100% of the revenue. Obviously someone would have to do it for the teams, simple hire a team of lawyers and accountants, pay them a fee every year.

That way the teams get twice the amount of money they are currently. That gives the teams too much IMO so they should reduce the truly ridiculous fees that are being demanded of the circuits, that way we could hopefully go back to racing on some proper circuits too.

The teams would be in charge of everything commercial, if Mr Murdoch did want to show F1 then he would have to put in a bid alongside the Beeb, ITV etc etc. Then the teams would decide whats better financially and whats better for the sport and select a winner based on a compromise of those two criteria.

Who are this CVC and why did they aquire control in the first place? It all seems unneseccarily complicated with far too many people involved for the sole reason of filling their own pockets!


You’re suggesting that the inmates should run the asylum?

It didn’t work in the US. After the big split CART had better cars (non-spec!), better tracks, better racing, better drivers, better everything than the IRL.

Except for management structure.

IRL was and is owned by the George family, and was run as a benevolent dictatorship by Tony George.

CART was run by committee of owners.

Guess which one is still around?


“Why do the teams not control the rights and cash themselves? ”

How do you think Bernie got started?


You have to follow the money for buying F1.

You see that Sky was originally marketed as Pay TV with no adverts and good quality – but the affluent demographic punter who could afford Sky was exactly the person who the Advertisers wanted to get in front – so Sky sold out to make twice as much money. ( this happens across all SKY TV not just Sports )

The Bloodsuckers ( Murdochs ) have seen the power of TV and therefore with Sport popularity increasing in the future then expect your viewing quality to decrease and their revenue to increase.

You – the fans are now no longer cared about – It was a sad day for the sport when Bernie sold F1 to CVC – It will be a sadder day if the Murdoch’s get a hold of it.

Expect to be paying for the privilege soon.

Road of Bones

This is nothing more than Ferrari trying to influence the next Concorde agreement, IMO.

By hiding behind Exor & Newscorp, they are sneaking about talking to “influential parties” (by which I take to mean team owners, key sponsors, circuit owners, etc.), and sounding them out about making some fundamental changes to the Concorde Agreement next year that will ultimately pave the way for a Newscorp takeover (without Exor) in the future – i.e. do away with the “free-to-air” rule amongst others. I expect that Ferrari are angling for their previous position of priviledge, rather than an outright stake in the control of F1 as a whole – but by facilitating a Newscorp takeover and getting rid of Bernie/CVC (& probably reigning in the influence of the FIA on setting the rules), they hope to get back to where they were in the early 2000’s (i.e. dominant).

The carrot being dangled to the “influential parties” is probably along the lines of the Premiership football model of massive financial return from broadcasting to offset the loss of revenue from current sponsorship, plus the idea that the new structure would limit the level to which the FIA can meddle with the teams & the rules (which Ferrari hate, having found that Jean Todt is not quite as Red-all-the-way-through as they expected).

Let us hope therefore that FOTA are not easily swayed by such a shiny carrot, that ultimately may turn out to be made of painted wood…


I’m currently moving flat and have had to make the tough decision to scrap Sky TV and make do with Freeview as i can no longer afford sky. A big part of that being an ok decision was that F1 is on the beeb. I would pay to watch F1 but the fear is the news corp would make you buy everything they offer just so you can have the one thing you want.


What is “on the beeb” mean


That is my fear too, I don’t know about UK but here in france Canal+ is trying to do the same thing, you subscribe for something you need but you end up paying for other things you don’t need. The best option will be pay per view via the net…eurosport does it for just 40 euros a year…


It would be a very sad day if the BBC loses the F1 coverage…ITV did a fine job, but no matter how good the production was, adverts ruin racing! Sky would throw plenty of adverts into their coverage…not good for the fans!

Roger Melly (the man on the telly)

F1 will ultimately end up being sold. The only sticking point will be the price.


Bernie is getting old. I wouldn’t tie my money up in a business run with by an 80 year old. I’d be looking for either a good succession plan or to realise my profit and pass that problem on to the next guy who will have his own ideas about who and how to run the business.

Now is the ideal time to do a disposal. With the 100 yr agreement, a new partner has a long time to realise their profit and CVC can extract maximum ROI. It’s not about pay TV or leaving it on free to air. Over time that will change and there is massive potential for generating extra revenue through new media streams i.e. IPTV, ipad streaming, re-instating multiple streams (in car, pits, following each car etc) whilst still leaving free to air. And lest we forget it is not mandated ‘live’ free to air. That is or could be a premium product as would advertising free streams.

Revenue sharing on a progressive basis would also tie the teams in. Whether that be on a pure cash basis or as shareholders is to be seen but you can bet your bottom dolllar that everyone is going to want to share the cake.

Williams is a test case for the future owners. If their float, albeit going badly at the moment, realises good gains for it’s shareholders you can guarantee a float is on the cards somewhere down the line.


I’m sure that Bernie fully intends to live out the 100 year deal, even if it means living until he is 180.


Exactly what I thought too!


I am sure a deal will happen. It is in the FIAs interest to be bought out of their current 100 year agreement for better terms, it is in CVCs interest to have the business bought from them with a suitably acceptable profit, therefore wiping their F1 business debt ( a debt negotiated when det was the fashion and money easy, not the same now) and in the teams interest to get more money out of the sport under a new Concorde Agreement.

The issue is again where will the money come from, has to be pay per view and as James has said 100million subscribers plus at $100 a season is a lot of money.

I’ll carry on reading James and watching the highlights on BBC in the evening.

It is interesting that this is happening when the sport is going through an “exciting” phase and high viewing numbers. I cannot imagine this happening in the “boring” Schumacher days.

Regarding the “boring” years, I found I would watch the start, see the race settle down and then go out for a Sunday afternoon with the family, maybe in thev future I will miss the start altogether and save my money and then gradually loose all interest in F1.

Conrad M. Sathirweth

To be honest if it went on to pay TV it would be really annoying but I still would not pay to watch it, I would just watch it free on the internet like with football.

I think it would also lose a lot of the more casual fans, it would also make it harder for new fans to get into it and over the years the fanbase for F1 might start to decrease.


It’s all about money. Teams, CVC, new buyer.

CVC at this stage are getting 53% and the team 47% from the profits.

With the need for a new Concorde Agreement, the teams are looking to get a bigger share for themselves, which can go as high as 70-75%.

The majority of people if not all, who don’t like this deal to go ahead, don’t like the pay-to-view idea. So this is a big thing.

Maybe James can help clarifying something. What will happen if the teams and CVC don’t agree on the profits share percentage in the new Concorde Agreement?

I might be wrong, but I see this as a posibility from the teams like Ferrari and McLaren to create this idea of a possible deal to put pressure to CVC. The pressure is to allow the teams a better possition while negociations for the profits percentage will start.



Genuine questions about the lower formula’s such as GP2 or F3. Since they are only shown on satellite or subscription, how difficult do they find it to get sponsors?

I know they generally need less sponsorship because they have much lower costs, but do they find it particularly hard? Do the much smaller television audience make it difficult to bring people on board?

I’d love to know, because it might show the difficulties of F1 in a microcosm.

PS Who else would like the GP2 on the BBC red button?


In New Zealand we have to pay sky to watch F1 so all this free to air stuff is rubbish

Adrian Jordan

How much does it cost you and do you already have to pay a tv-license?

My issue with any move to Sky Sports isn’t that I resent having to pay to watch F1 – if I could simply pay £5 a race to watch it then I would, great.

But a subscription to Sky Sport runs at around £40 per month which is nearly £500 a year. Even if I wanted to pay that, I couldn’t afford to.

At the moment I live in a an area where I can just about get the basic free-to-air channels on Freeview (though the signal quality is that poor that the sound often drops out even on BBC1 and ITV1) so if I could afford to subscribe to satellite and get all the channels that brings then that would be great, but I can’t.

If F1 moved to pay-per-view then I would still try to follow the sport online, but I wouldn’t be able to afford to watch the races. Simple as that.

Top Tags