Date: 4th May 2011 at 12:47pm
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Two weeks ago the first report’s of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp plans to purchase Formula One began to surface.

At that stage reports suggested that News Corporation had held preliminary talks with potential partners about forming a consortium to buy Formula One.

Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim (who sponsors the Sauber team) was linked, as too was a major car manufacturer, which had been reported to be Ferrari.

While it was suggested that talks had been held with potential partners, they had not made an official approach to F1’s owner CVC Capital Partners at this stage, while Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone, was also quick to distance himself from the suggestions that the sport was for sale: ‘It’s rubbish. The sport is not for sale. And, anyway, we would not sell to a media company because it would restrict the ability to negotiate with other broadcasters,’

But any thoughts that those comments would bring an end to the story were dashed yesterday, when News Corporation and Italian investment firm Exor (who have close links to Fiat, who of course are Ferrari’s parent company) officially announced their intention to hold talks with Formula One stakeholders.

‘EXOR, one of Europe’s largest listed investment companies, and News Corporation, the global media group, confirm that they are 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 1 in the interests of the participants and the fans.

‘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 1?s current owners.’
a joint Exor and News Corp statement was quoted by Autosport Magazine.

With the announcement it is now clear that this movement is gathering momentum, while F1’s owner CVC Capital Partners has now also revealed that they have indeed received an approach from the Exor/News Corporation consortium regarding the ownership of Formula One.

‘James Murdoch has informed us that the approach is friendly, at a very preliminary stage, and that they acknowledge that Formula 1 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 1 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.’
CVC Capital Partners told the BBC.

This potential deal will prove to be unpopular with a lot of Formula One supporters. Many of which will not like the thought of a Rupert Murdoch/Sky Sports takeover or investment package.

One of a number of reasons behind those thoughts will be that if Murdoch/Sky have any control over F1, will a move to pay-TV be a formality in the future?

Currently the The Concorde Agreement which all 12 teams have agreed too states that the sport will be shown on free-to-air television wherever possible, preventing an exclusive rights package for Sky.

Another reason why it would prove unpopular would be Exor’s links to Ferrari, with the potential to have a company with a financial interest in both the sport and a team, something that is not allowed under the current Concorde Agreement.

However the Concorde Agreement is set for a renewal and if the teams change their minds then that could begin to pave the way for F1 to move away from the BBC in 2013 to Sky (and other pay-tv broadcasters around the World) or indeed alter the rules regarding a team owner having a controlling interest in the sport.