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Formula One may be sold to Qatari stakeholders

Qatar Sports investments, who own Paris Saint-Germain, and Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, are in talks to buy out F1.

News 24 Jun 2015, 13:06 IST

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross(L) and F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone (R)

American Stephen Ross, who owns NFL team Miami Dolphins, is understood to be in talks with Qatar Sports Investments, who own European football club Paris Saint-Germain,  to take over the sport of Formula One in a bid presumed to be worth £5billion. 

The deal, if successful, will result in the takeover of F1 and CVC Capital partners, a private equity firm headquartered in London, which holds a major stake in Formula One.

Sources close to Qatar Investments have suggested that there has in fact been interest expressed by Qatar Sports Investments, but this was denied by CVC Capital Partners. Donald Mackenzie, the co-chairman of CVC, has been seen attending several Formula One races this year, however, which may lend credence to the likelihood of ongoing talks, as Mackenzie is aware of the financial issues currently affecting the sport.

Any deal, however, will still keep Bernie Ecclestone part of the sport. Ecclestone, who personally holds a 5% share in Formula One, would sell that share in the event of a takeover, but will be involved in its functioning. A source was quoted as telling the Financial Times “They believe he brings a lot to the sport and they can help expand it into the US and Chinese markets.”

Qatar Sports Investments and Ross aim to ‘transform’ the sport, which in recent years has faced financial issues and a flagging viewership. The Formula One strategy group, comprised of FIA officials and team representatives, have attempted to introduce moves to attract viewers, but this is proving difficult. Teams are also complaining of the extremely high costs involved in being part of the sport, which is currently being dominated by legacy automakers who have a significantly stronger financial backing than smaller independent teams, who have been struggling to find sponsors. 

Ecclestone said in an official statement to the Financial Times that there was no deal on the table, but admitted that his shares would be sold in the event of a takeover. The F1 supremo has been recorded on several occasions as saying he is disillusioned with the sport, which he described as “crap” at the recently concluded Austrian Grand Prix in Spielberg.

Most teams are said to be extremely angered by CVC Capital Partners, who have reaped significant profits from Formula One, but refused to reinvest these to keep the sport going, and, as previously mentioned, this has left smaller teams that do not have long-standing names and financials struggling to keep afloat. Several team bosses, such as Force India’s deputy principal Bob Fernley, have decried the firm in no uncertain terms – Fernley once told The Guardian  “CVC is the worst thing to happen to Formula One.”

Red Bull principal Christian Horner also opined on the bid, saying QSI and CVC had “..an enormous amount of experience and a huge amount of knowledge of the sport.”

Although Ecclestone has denied knowledge of a deal for now, statements by Horner and several sources indicate that talks are on. 

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