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F1's future owner

NEWS STORY
17/01/2010

Pitpass' business editor Chris Sylt had his regular pre-season lunch with Bernie Ecclestone earlier this week and amongst the many pointers that the F1 boss gave was the comment that the current owner of F1's commercial rights, the finance firm CVC, is not planning on selling its investment. However, Ecclestone added that there are many interested parties out there and so Pitpass thought it was time to look at who might be in the chase when CVC eventually decides to sell F1 in the years ahead.

Sovereign Wealth fund (for example: Qatari Diar)

Why it might buy F1:

  • Prestige: Ownership of the sport's rightsholder would save a loss of face from not hosting an F1 race like Bahrain and Abu Dhabi. Qatar has a circuit which could host the sport with only a few modifications.
  • Funding: Qatari Diar's resources are holding up well despite the financial crisis with all of its overseas real estate projects on track and developing on schedule.
  • Connections: Ecclestone and CVC have made it their business to wine and dine the world's wealthiest sovereign wealth funds so they are sure to be the first to know if F1 gets put on the market.
  • Status quo: Given Ecclestone's impeccable reputation in the Middle East it is unlikely that a sovereign wealth fund would implement any changes to the way F1 is run. This would surely go down well with F1's current owners and the FIA.
  • Why the deal won't happen:

  • The price: It is all very well and good for a wealth fund to have enough money to buy F1 but CVC would be aware of this and could raise the price accordingly. The wealth funds may be wealthy but their resources still aren't limited.
  • Entertainment companies (for example: Disney)

    Why it might buy F1:

  • Kids: F1 may be seen as fitting with corporate strategy of attracting young boys - the reason behind Disney's recent 2.4bn acquisition of Marvel Comics.
  • Movies: F1 could be integrated with existing franchises such as the Cars film which featured the voices of Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso. Cars 2, due for release in 2011, is expected to focus more on European racing.
  • Broadcasting: Disney owns the ESPN sports channel which could broadcast F1 as it already does in Asia through ESPN Star Sports.
  • Potential: Disney owns brands and franchises which have been built up over decades. With a 60-year history F1 fits into this category nicely and without a comic, merchandise and movie there is a lot of development potential.
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