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.”