Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone has again reiterated the sport’s current owners are in no mood to sell following further speculation regarding a potential takeover.
One of Europe’s largest investment firms, EXOR, yesterday confirmed their interest in acquiring F1 alongside News Corporation.
EXOR are controlled by the Agnelli family who run car giant Fiat, which in turn owns Ferrari.
However, Ecclestone believes the most basic of questions should be asked of the current owners, private equity company CVC, for whom the 80-year-old serves as their chief executive.
“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%.”
A fortnight ago, when media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp were first mentioned as a potential suitor for F1, Ecclestone described the link as “rubbish” and that any offer would have to be “ridiculous.”
However, any commodity has its price and anything way above and beyond the £1.6bn CVC paid for F1 in 2006 would have to be considered.
“If somebody come 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 added.
“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 (Mexican billionaire) Carlos Slim, and now we’ve a new one.”
There was some confusion last night, however, as to what stage of negotiations the parties were at.
EXOR and News Corp released a statement suggesting they were only looking into the possibility of making an approach, yet hours later CVC revealed they had received a “friendly” approach, albeit at the preliminary stage.
A joint statement from EXOR and News Corp read: “EXOR, one of Europe’s largest listed investment companies, and News Corporation, the global media group, confirm 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 One 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.”
Significantly, however, the statement added: “There can be no certainty that this will lead to an approach to Formula One’s current owners.”
That was contradicted by the CVC statement hours later, which read: “CVC can confirm that it has recently received an approach from the Exor News Corporation consortium.
“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.”