Speculation is mounting that Formula One is about to be revamped by a US takeover that could bring new life and a higher profile for a sport that is struggling to attract new fans.
Media reports suggest that F1’s largest and controlling shareholder, the hedge fund CVC Capital Partners, is preparing to sell the business to US media conglomerate Liberty Media for around $8.5 billion; more than four times CVC’s original outlay in 2006.
At last weekend’s Italian Grand Prix, Formula One’s commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone met with CVC co-chairman Donald Mackenzie, whose rare appearance in the paddock fueled speculation of an imminent deal. When speaking at Monza, however, the 85-year-old Ecclestone would not confirm whether or not a sale is going ahead.
Liberty, a multi-billion dollar, mass-media company is run by 75-year-old John Malone. He is ranked 184th on the Forbes list of billionaires. Malone would not be a newcomer to the high-end world of sport, since Liberty owns Major League Baseball side Atlanta Braves.
Reportedly, with Malone in charge, F1’s new chairman would become Chase Carey, the executive vice-chairman of 21st Century Fox.
When asked about it, the British billionaire replied in his trademark enigmatic style: “I haven’t got a clue.”