Fiat linked to News Corporation bid for F1

2011 F1 season

Fiat logos on Ferrari

Fiat logos on Ferrari

An investment group close to Fiat is considering joining News Corp in a bid to take over Formula 1.

News Corp’s bid is being handled by Exor SpA, an investment company which is the majority shareholder in the Fiat Group.

The chairman and chief executive officer of Exor is John Elkann, who has also been chairman of Fiat since April last year.

He is the grandson of Gianni Agnelli, who became the president of Fiat in 1966, and remained so for three decades before moving into an honorary role prior to his death in 2003.

Fiat purchased a controlling interest in Ferrari three years after Agnelli became chairman. Following Agnelli’s death Ferrari’s F1 car for that season was named the F2003-GA after him.

Update: Exor have issued the following joint statement with News Corp:

“Exor, one of Europe?s largest listed investment companies, and News Corporation, the global media group, confirm that 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 1 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. There can be no certainty that this will lead to an approach to Formula 1?s current owners.”

Update: F1 owners CVC have issued this statement in response:

“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.”

Image ?? Ferrari spa/Ercole Colombo

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109 comments on Fiat linked to News Corporation bid for F1

  1. John H said on 3rd May 2011, 19:12

    Ferrari and Sky eh.

    Time to form that breakaway series methinks.

  2. Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 3rd May 2011, 19:14

    So a broadcasting company wants to take over the commercial rights of a sport, entrusting the task to a company which is the majority shareholder in the parent company of one of the competitors, who use their success and exposure as a platform to sell their road vehicles?

    This has conflict of interest written all over it.

    • Dan Newton said on 3rd May 2011, 19:26

      You’ve got that right, for sure.

    • Todfod (@todfod) said on 3rd May 2011, 19:48

      Agree. I was fine with just a News Corp takeover, but to have Exor Spa involved is just bad news. Ferrari throw their weight around currently, and I cannot imagine what would happen to the sport if they had an ex Fiat executive running the sport for them.

    • Fixy (@fixy) said on 3rd May 2011, 19:52

      I agree. Probably they wouldn’t make Ferrari win blatantly, but if Ferrari won there would be people saying it was becuase of Fiat.

      • Icthyes said on 3rd May 2011, 20:32

        Nah, I was thinking along the lines of increased exposure, even greater heritage bonuses, etc.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 3rd May 2011, 20:56

      Nah, This is Monti telling Bernie he can do it without him if needed to put the pressure on towards the Concorde Agreement talks.

      Political strategy in the background it is. Makes sense, although Slim and Murdoch looking for quality content to put through their channels / devices / networks will be a serious option.

    • Hairpin (@hairpin) said on 3rd May 2011, 21:21

      Makes a bit more sense of Bernie changing his mind and siding with Ferrari over the new for 2013 engine rules. Of course there is no nor will there be any special relationship with FOM or the FIA afterwards if this goes ahead.
      God help F1

    • Oliver said on 3rd May 2011, 21:28

      There is no conflict of interest. We still have the FIA acting as unfair fair stewards.

    • Dane said on 4th May 2011, 0:58

      There is nothing wrong with Todt being in charge of FIA, Mclaren supplying all ECU’s, & no problem with Elkman being linked to a possible takeover. F1 is full of conflicts of interests

      • Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 4th May 2011, 16:57

        Except McLaren are supposed to deliver standard ECUs. Broadcasters are under no obligation to give everyone equal airtime. Cue Ferrari on TV for half the race and Ferrari/Santander ads run for free in between. Unlikely, but is leaving the possibility open that smart?

        Todt is also one man who can’t do anything just because he wants it to happen.

    • njw said on 4th May 2011, 9:39

      Yeah, this is starting to stink.

  3. moondoggy said on 3rd May 2011, 19:27

    Thank goodness the Italians are involved. It’ll take 10 years to come about and they’ll make a complete mess of it. I smell a rival competition coming on. How many teams will want to race under a company that owns Farrari?

    • Butterfly said on 3rd May 2011, 20:04

      What are you all complaining about? Ferrari will bring back testing while NewsCorp will turn F1 into the best spectacle on Earth.

      • f1fanboy said on 3rd May 2011, 20:10

        HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        Joke of the season right there…

      • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 3rd May 2011, 20:12

        Ferrari will bring back testing

        Have you ever been to a test session? Compared to a race it’s really boring.

        NewsCorp will turn F1 into the best spectacle on Earth

        And maybe we’ll get to see some of it between the ad breaks.

        • Lee said on 3rd May 2011, 20:21

          This is going to be the first time in my life i with be thankful for the existence of the EU. Even before Bernie made reference to the agreement with the EU that the sport must be available on terrestrial free to view TV where available the whole purchase had EU veto written all over it.

          The lefties in brussels will do all they can to ensure Murcock doesnt get his grubby hands on F1.

          Having the sport on pay per view or subscription model television will also surely lead to a backlash from sponsors? The teams might see more short term cash, but with an inevitable drop in viewing figures due to far far less people having satellite or pay per view tv (as happened with the cricket in England when sky got hold of it) sponsors will surely lose out on a lot of exposure.

          • Hairpin (@hairpin) said on 3rd May 2011, 21:39

            Don’t be to reliant on this agreement to show F1 on ‘free’ terrestrial TV, it could still comply with Bernie’s so called agreement by showing it first on pay TV live, then showing it later or the following day on ‘free’ TV.
            Meets the requirements of the EU but not quite as we might like it.
            I don’t trust the little dwarf one iota, but you may have guessed this by now.

        • mild7nick said on 3rd May 2011, 22:54

          Bang on Keith!

          And to my mind F1 already is the best spectacle in the world!

          Of course its not perfect but there really isnt a whole lot “broken” with it at the moment that needs fixing

        • Butterfly said on 4th May 2011, 7:40

          Look, all the teams need testing back. Even the poor teams need to make sure their cars finish the race.

          As for the spectacle, I wouldn’t say F1 is worth watching at the moment.

          • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 4th May 2011, 8:09

            Look, all the teams need testing back. Even the poor teams need to make sure their cars finish the race.

            That’s plainly not the case. Reliability is better than it’s ever been. In the last race 23 cars finished – a record – and that’s part of a wider trend:

            http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/2011/04/18/2011-chinese-grand-prix-stats-facts/

            All that bringing back testing would do is reduce the teams’ need to run during race weekend practice sessions, and hand a huge advantage to the wealthiest teams who can afford to do tens of thousands of kilometres of testing every year. Neither of which would be good for F1.

          • Hewis Lamilton said on 4th May 2011, 16:27

            All that bringing back testing would do is reduce the teams’ need to run during race weekend practice sessions, and hand a huge advantage to the wealthiest teams who can afford to do tens of thousands of kilometres of testing every year. Neither of which would be good for F1.

            Great point, but one positive point of a return to testing would that there would actually be test drivers being used again in Formula 1.

        • F1Yankee (@f1yankee) said on 4th May 2011, 8:06

          And maybe we’ll get to see some of it between the ad breaks.

          i’m sure it will be in there somewhere behind all the flashy graphics, dancing robots, etc.

        • Adrian J said on 4th May 2011, 8:42

          And maybe we’ll get to see some of it between the ad breaks.

          Not I, I wouldn’t be able to afford Sky Sports just for F1.

      • moondoggy said on 3rd May 2011, 20:13

        Well first of all we’ll have to pay to watch F1. Secondly, I hope you like television commercials. Thirdly it’ll turn into a circus…..Bernie’s rain machines will be conservative in comparison.

        I already think it is a pretty good show, last few seasons have been fantastic, and other than the DRS making for a bit of fake overtaking, this one will be a cracker.

        Why do we need testing? I can’t honestly say I’ve ever sat down to watch a race and thought it could have done with 5 or 600 hours more testing.

  4. moondoggy said on 3rd May 2011, 19:33

    This says it all. From Skynews”
    “News Corp is working with Exor SpA, which is headed by John Elkann, chairman and chief executive of Fiat (the owner of Ferrari, F1’s most important car manufacturer) on putting together a consortium to bid for F1.”

  5. Dipak T said on 3rd May 2011, 19:36

    This is ridiculous. Like Icthyes said, conflict of interest is written all over this and I really doubt the FIA will allow F1 to be sold to Murdoch.

  6. Zadak (@thezadak) said on 3rd May 2011, 19:47

    this would be a disaster

  7. Dan Newton said on 3rd May 2011, 19:54

    Thinking about it I’m sure the (other) teams won’t allow it. After all it would be in there best interest not to.

  8. Abuelo Paul said on 3rd May 2011, 19:56

    Well, it won’t be long before Bernie is collecting his readies, opting out and leaving the commercial interests of F1 to another bunch of money collectors. It can only be bad for the SPORT. And of course its supporters. How long before it goes completely subscription and the majority of the people who watch the SPORT for enjoyment get priced out. Look at professional football. Its all on pay per view if its worth watching. At least with Bernie and the teams we know that is free to air so far, with that commitment by all currently involved. New owners, new agreements and new “pricing” to recoup their outlay. No-one goes all out to buy a charity.

  9. Calum (@calum) said on 3rd May 2011, 19:58

    So long as the F1 takeover is seamless and unoticeable on the track, I don’t care what happens, if F1 is still on free UK tv. :)

    • Lee said on 3rd May 2011, 20:23

      it wont be, to both your points.

    • Hairpin (@hairpin) said on 3rd May 2011, 22:02

      ‘Free’ don’t you pay your TV license, I do and I consider that’s enough. With all the re-runs and idiotic dance programs or Eurovision song contest etc, I don’t think i’m getting value for money as it is. I’d like to see some ALMS as well as F1 but thats only pay view, and have you heard me complain about it?. Well previously no but now you’ve rattled my cage I am now.

  10. Butterfly said on 3rd May 2011, 20:08

    It would be great to see a dedicated F1 channel with 24/7 coverage of the sport. That would be a reason for me to pay the TV tax monthly. I would definitely pay for that. Everything else on TV is just crap.

    • SparkyJ23 (@sparkyj23) said on 3rd May 2011, 22:44

      WE get already get all the coverage that there is apart from the pre-season testing the BBC has shown every minute of the season. There is no more coverage to be watched.

  11. TMFOX said on 3rd May 2011, 20:24

    Oh for goodness sake!

    What I’d really like to say isn’t appropriate.

  12. lamo2741 said on 3rd May 2011, 20:29

    You only need to look at how well bernies pay per view channel was on sky a few years ago to see how unsuccessful f1would be to leave bbc and head to sky……

    • Don Mateo said on 3rd May 2011, 21:05

      But at the time F1 was also available free to air, and let’s be honest, most people will take the free option if it’s available. However, if News Corp make F1 PPV, that will be the only option, so it’ll be a case of pay up or don’t watch. Personally I’ll be falling into the latter category if it goes PPV. Thank goodness the BTCC is getting decent TV coverage these days.

  13. VXR said on 3rd May 2011, 20:53

    Breakaway series via the back door?

    Who knows, Ferrari may even get its V12 engines after all. And we’ll be paying for them! Well, I won’t be paying, even if it does got to SKY. But I would prefer that it remained FTA and advertisement free.

  14. I hope Lee is correct in his earlier comment about the EU wanting to keep Murdoch’ grubby hands off the sport. The thought of F1 on PPV TV only fills me with sadness. I know News Corp were stopped from buying Manchester Utd a few years back because of there dominace in sport already, hopefully something similar……

  15. BasCB (@bascb) said on 3rd May 2011, 21:01

    On the other hand, it might just be about getting some strong deep pockets guys together to take over the sport. The Agnelli family is rich and needs nice places to put its investments and make even more money, just like Slim does and in Murdoch as well.

    F1 clearly is interesting and this is really getting the message going to start interested parties inquiring at CVC what the deal will surmount to.

  16. Hare (@hare) said on 3rd May 2011, 21:04

    no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no…

    Now having thought about it a bit more….. NO!

  17. HounslowBusGarage said on 3rd May 2011, 21:36

    Well, taken to it’s logical conclusion this could be Formula Ferrari where nothing the red team don’t like gets a look in. Maybe three or four teams – all Ferrari powered – three cars each with unlimited testing.
    Maybe it’s all just positioning in advance of the Concorde War, but I really think Todt has to show some leadership here and be prepared to kick a few dangly body parts.

  18. Finn said on 3rd May 2011, 21:36

    1. F1 isn’t free in the UK, we pay a TV licence. Agreed the BBC are doing a great job.
    2. There are plenty of other ‘conflicts of interest’ or put in more realistic terms, cross share ownership. That’s business for you. John Player used to sponsor the British GP in the 70s and Team Lotus at the same time. loads of multinational funds own major shareholdings in TV companies and manufacturers already.

    welcome to the real world kids.

    • Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 3rd May 2011, 21:54

      JPS didn’t have their own producer managing the TV feed, did they?

    • AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 3rd May 2011, 23:18

      We don’t have a choice over the TV Licence. Plus it’s ad-free.

      That said, I cannot see F1 near premium sports channels any time soon.

      • Mike said on 4th May 2011, 3:44

        Plus it’s ad-free.

        How much does this TV licence cost?

        • Red Andy (@red-andy) said on 4th May 2011, 9:04

          Something like £130 per year for a colour TV. £47 if you only have it in black-and-white! Various groups such as the elderly get it for free.

          • Mike said on 4th May 2011, 10:11

            So what you are telling me is that there is a really cheap guy squinting in front of his black and white TV thinking…

            “Suckers…”

            Seriously though, so this 130 gets you no ads? or no ads during certain events?

          • Skett said on 4th May 2011, 11:14

            No ads at all, but its not as though you can just not pay the money and get ads. You don’t pay it and you receive a fine

        • icytrue said on 4th May 2011, 13:05

          to be fair the £130 gives you complete coverage of F1 plus many other sports plus:

          BBC1 television channel
          BBC2 television channel
          BBC3 television channel
          BBC4 television channel
          CBBC
          Cbeebies
          BBC News Channel
          BBC Parliament
          BBC Radio 1
          BBC Radio 2
          BBC Radio 3
          BBC Radio 4
          BBC Radio 4 Extra
          BBC Radio 5 Live
          BBC Radio 5 Live Extra
          BBC Radio 6 Music
          BBC web sites including News and Sport
          BBC iPlayer

          The content of all of the above is generally of the highest quality (except perhaps BBC3!) with no adverts.

          Seems a pretty good deal to me!

    • BBT (@bbt) said on 4th May 2011, 8:47

      It is as close to free as you can get, in that you don’t have to pay extra to watch F1.

      I won’t be paying the same as the TV licence again (plus some) to watch F1, I just couldn’t afford it.

      • Adrian J said on 4th May 2011, 10:17

        I won’t be paying the same as the TV licence again (plus some) to watch F1, I just couldn’t afford it.

        “Plus some” is putting it mildly isn’t it?

        Just done a quick run through on the Sky website and you’re looking at over £40 a month to get Sky Sports (that’s assuming they don’t make it a pay-per-event dealio) so that’s nearly £500 a year…on top of the TV Licence fee.

        I can’t see the other teams allowing the sport to move to Pay-TV though. There’s a reason they have a clause in the current FOM Agreement stating that F1 has to remain on Free-To-Air TV in certain key markets. Even Bernie agrees with this.

  19. Russell (@russell) said on 3rd May 2011, 22:03

    Whoa! People, go back and read the statement again.

    Clearly, Luca’s had enough of Tilkedromes, Bonkers Bernie and his artificial aids, daft ticket prices, private equity people with no real interest in the sport screwing it for $$$$, etc. Haven’t we all?

    The Concorde agreement is up for grabs and this is a clear shot across the bows that Ferrari for one is not going to lie down and accept the scraps off Bernie’s plate.

    This won’t be dominated by Ferrari, they (or rather Fiat) are merely the catalyst. The statement makes it clear that “minority partners and key stakeholders in the sport” are expected to become involved, so this clearly means most of the other teams, tyre and fuel suppliers, etc. Fantastic.

    Highly critical of Murdoch as I am, the reality is that here in New Zealand SkyTV has run a hugely successful dedicated Rugby channel for years (yes, rugby 24/7) that rebroadcasts major matches free to air within hours. The quality of coverage (camera angles, etc, is excellent). Yes it has commercials, but only at the start, half time and after the end of games. I’d call that commercial free. They already air the BBC feed here of FR, quali and the race commercial free. They have already looked seriously here at a dedicated motorsport channel (again, 24/7). Getting Formula 1 would probably tip them over the edge and motorsport fans the world over would have their own channel with not just F1, but Bathurst, WRC, etc. all in HD.

    This is an opportunity to make the sport virtually debt-free, get it back to the great circuits with ticket prices that are a fraction of today’s and for it to be run by people who love to go racing.

    It’s a no-brainer to me…….

    • Cacarella said on 3rd May 2011, 22:17

      Sorry,

      The name Ferrari mentioned in the story makes all your logical statements incomprehensible.

      It’s much easier to scream and cry that the FIA will fix races, and there’ll only be 5 teams all powered by Ferrari V12’s and that the only food available at the tracks will be Pasta.

    • Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 3rd May 2011, 22:22

      this clearly means most of the other teams, tyre and fuel suppliers, etc.

      How?

      Rugby

      ITV here restrict its football adverts not to interfere with the match but its F1 commercials always did. Rugby, football and F1 are structured very differently. They can go 50 minutes without a break seemingly, but no more.

      This is an opportunity to make the sport virtually debt-free

      CVC already look good on wiping out that debt. This move would actually be more likely to plunge the sport back into debt, unless they have the spare $2billion lying around somewhere.

      get it back to the great circuits

      Many of which aren’t authorised by the FIA to host F1 anymore.

      • Russell (@russell) said on 3rd May 2011, 22:36

        If Williams, McLaren, Pirelli, Mercedes, etc are not “key stakeholders in the sport”, then I don’t know who is. For this idea to get any traction they obviously have to be on board as equal partners. I don’t believe Exor will have gone public about this without already having sounded them out.

        Here in NZ we watch all three FP, quali and the race on Sky without any commercial breaks. None. Zip. Nana.

        CVC would be expecting huge $$$ if they sold F1 (perhaps $4bn). This is a massive amount of money to service. CVC is NOT wiping out the debt at all.

        As for non FIA approved tracks, if they did not have to cough up $10-25 m every year to Bernie, maybe they could afford to invest in the upgrades required.

        • Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 3rd May 2011, 22:57

          If Williams, McLaren, Pirelli, Mercedes, etc are not “key stakeholders in the sport”, then I don’t know who is.

          Neither do I. But I’m pretty sure they’d be telling us if it was the teams.

          I’m glad the coverage in New Zealand is so good. But we haven’t had the same experience here on Sky nor anyone with motorsports.

          CVC would be expecting huge $$$ if they sold F1 (perhaps $4bn). This is a massive amount of money to service. CVC is NOT wiping out the debt at all.

          How does that even follow? CV would want to sell at a high price…so they’re not wiping out the debt? What kind of logic is that? If anything you’ve just proven my point: any buyer would need to get into serious debt to buy F1. You think they’d stump up that kind of money and wipe out the remaining debt all out of the goodness of their own heart? They’ll do exactly what CVC did, borrow the money and suck revenue from the sport to pay off their loans. Except this time the money will be even greater.

          The 50% CVC are getting from the TV money, plus the race fees are going a long way to write off the debt, so much so that some are even considering not selling it on immediately as the usual tactic would be. A takeover would set us back to Square 1.

          As for non FIA approved tracks, if they did not have to cough up $10-25 m every year to Bernie, maybe they could afford to invest in the upgrades required.

          Silverstone seem to be doing pretty well, not bad for a private members’ club. If the old circuits really wanted to come back to F1 they’d try to get the investment for it. The reason they haven’t is there’s no impetus in those countries. Some circuits would also require more work than even if Bernie was paying for them to be on the calendar. Others simply don’t exist anymore.

          • Russell (@russell) said on 4th May 2011, 6:16

            Um, I think you missed a key point in the Exor announcement: “There can be no certainty that this will lead to an approach to Formula 1’s current owners.”

            In other words, this Fiat/News Corp/other “key stakeholders” consortium would NOT be buying F1 from CVC. There is no ‘buy-out’ of CVC, who’d be left with a virtually worthless asset: F1 without the existing teams and no Concorde agreement.

            The new consortium would own the rights to F1, News Corp guarantees to provide the TV programming and distribution, with the FIA (probably) the governing body. This is Formula 1 with a clean slate and no $4bn of debt to service. That means more money for the teams, lower ticket prices for the fans and classic circuits. Yes, it also means you’d probably need a Sky subscription to watch FP, quali and the race live, but I’d put money on News offering it delayed free to air.

            I really struggle to understand those people here who seem to want to watch F1 live and for free but without any commercials. What kind of world do you live in? I don’t like Murdoch any more than the most people here (and I worked for him for four years), but if you put personalities aside and believe that it’ll be the teams that own the rights to the new series (not News Corp), then this could be the beginning of something really great.

            It’s like the FOTA ‘breakaway’ of two years ago, except this time they’ve already got the media vehicle in place.

            If I were Bernie or CVC I’d be ******** myself right now.

          • Adrian J said on 4th May 2011, 10:23

            @Russell.

            More likely would be that ticket prices would stay where they are, or even go up, and News Corp et al would see increased revenues. They’d need to in order to offset the loss in TV Revenue from all the people (like myself) who couldn’t justify nearly £500 a year to watch 20 races.

        • BBT (@bbt) said on 4th May 2011, 8:52

          I’m a big Rugby fan and due to Sky I can no longer watch Rugby in Europe so your argument falls apart.
          Even my local Rugby club can no longer afford the Sky license to show the games at the club.

          It might work in NZ but not here, I fear F1 would be the same.

    • HxCas (@hxcas) said on 4th May 2011, 0:21

      SkyTV? free to air? What? Sky has additional monthly subscription fees, doesn’t seem free to air to me

      • Russell (@russell) said on 4th May 2011, 5:51

        Here in NZ Sky own PrimeTV which is 100% free to air (no Sky subscription required). They specifically use it to broadcast rugby matches and other sporting events totally free an hour or two after the live game. It’s a model that seems to work well here. Not sure about an equivalent in the UK or elsewhere.

    • If only there wasn’t also the possibility certainty that News Corp. would (fully) turn F1 into a vehicular version of “America’s Best Dance Crew” I’d agree. But then F1 has already lost any credibility as a sport, so hey… might as well go whole hog.

  20. Ian said on 3rd May 2011, 22:10

    Frankly, as my interest in sport is confined to motorsport and having already lost WRC to subscription TV, I would not consider paying to watch F1 on TV, especially if the adverts were to be dominated by Ferrari and Fiat products and would Jean Todt still be able to remain in his position at the FIA, given his previous position at Ferrari?

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