FIA and Liberty Media quarrel over management of Formula 1 sports

Netflix executives must be chomping a bit to get their hands on the latest Formula 1 spat. This rivalry does not revolve around the title fight between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen. Nor does it focus on the cut-throat competition for seats, for example Daniel Ricciardo has seen off the grid in his new role as Red Bull’s third driver. In fact, this turmoil occurred in the winter, when the engine was not running even during the season. This is a purely political battle between Liberty Media, which owns the commercial rights to his F1 through the Formula One Group, and the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA). At stake is running a business that went from idling to supercharged in just three years and skyrocketed in value accordingly.

Last Monday, FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem lit a fuse. bloomberg A report citing a $20 billion proposal by the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) to take control of the Formula One group was rejected by Liberty. The Saudi attempt to win a juicy global award like Formula 1 has taken advantage of the exposure provided by Riyadh to host major sporting events with a public image campaign aimed at presenting a softer image. The Spanish and Italian football federations have hosted Super Cup matches in the Saudi capital in recent years, and the Dakar Rally will be held in 2020. Moving from South America to the Arabian Desert, F1 has added the Jeddah circuit to its calendar for 2021. Completion of PIF’s acquisition of Premier League club Newcastle United.

Few sports have seen such a surge in popularity since Liberty Media bought the sport from private equity firm CVC Capital Partners for $4.6 billion in 2017. Since then, the Grand Prix has been ubiquitous due to several factors. drive to surviveconsolidation in the very important US markets (Austin, Miami and Las Vegas) with up to 3 events in 2023; F1’s new explosiveness is on track, especially through Red Bull’s revitalization. Red Bull’s reigning world champion Max Verstappen has emerged as the ideal actor to play Lewis Hamilton’s antagonist to create a rivalry worthy of the sport’s golden age. And such a gap in Liberty Media ownership in just six years is why the FIA ​​bosses showed up on the scene.

“As regulators of motorsport, the FIA, as a non-profit organization, is wary of the alleged $20 billion inflated price tag for F1,” Ben Slyem wrote on Twitter. “Potential buyers are advised to apply common sense, consider the greater good of the sport, and have clear and sustainable plans, not just large sums of money. It is our duty to consider the future implications for promoters in terms of increased costs and the possible negative impact on fans.”

In response, Liberty Media issued a strongly worded letter from its legal department last Tuesday, suggesting that Ben Sulayem has exceeded his authority on matters that are neither his responsibility nor that of the organization he presides. bottom. “Formula One has exclusive rights to exploit commercial rights to the FIA ​​Formula One World Championship under a 100-year contract,” the letter said. “Furthermore, the FIA ​​made a clear commitment that it would do nothing to prejudice the ownership, control and/or exploitation of those rights. These comments from the FIA ​​President’s official social media accounts are unacceptable. I think it interferes with those rights.”

In the current grid shutdown, F1’s excellent health at sporting level could not hide the widening wounds between the FIA, Liberty and the teams. Decades of understanding seem to have been left behind since the 1980s brawl that was on the agenda of the World Championships. With no allies to officially endorse him, and multiple applicants instead, Ben Sulayem’s position is beginning to look precarious. Just this week, a liberal British MP called him, ignoring a letter signed by 90 MPs 10 months ago, highlighting the consequences of bringing F1 to a country where human rights are not respected. accused him of lacking compassion.

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