Bernie Ecclestone has moved to rubbish reports suggesting that Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation group is looking to form a consortium with the aim of securing control of Formula 1.
reported on Tuesday evening that News Corporation had held preliminary talks with Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim – a backer of the Sauber team and its driver Sergio Perez – and with people connected to one of the 'big car manufacturers' currently involved in the sport about forming a consortium.
Wall Street bank JPMorgan is said to be advising the News Corp group about the situation.
According to the report, the purchase of F1 is one option being investigated by News Corp, with the possibility that it could elect to bid for broadcast rights rather than try to secure a direct stake in the sport.
News Corp currently owns 39 per cent of Sky News
owner BskyB, and is in the process of trying to secure approval to purchase the shares in BskyB that it doesn't already own.
While News Corp insists it 'doesn't comment on market speculation', Ecclestone himself – who retains a stake in F1 as well as running it on behalf of CVC Capital Partners – has moved to rubbish the claims by insisting that sport isn't for sale.
“It's rubbish,” he told Telegraph Sport
. “The sport isn't for sale. People are knocking at the door all the time, [but] CVC is not looking for any exit over the next two or three years.”
Additional reporting in The Guardian
quotes a source as saying that News Corp is 'thinking about F1 and options they could take but that is all it is at this stage', with nothing expected to happen until a new version of the Concorde Agreement is put in place as there is 'no way to possibly value or plan until after that'.
Should News Corp elect to focus on securing broadcast rights for F1, then such a move wouldn't take place until the current deal with the BBC
comes to end after the 2013 season.
F1 returned to the BBC
in 2009 in a five-year deal but the long-term future of the deal has been called into question as bosses look into ways to make savings – with the deal to show F1 being viewed by some as an expense that could be removed from the equation.
However, it remains to be seen how a broadcast deal with News Corp and BskyB would be viewed by those within the sport given that it would take F1 away from the free-to-air market and likely lead to a reduction in viewing figures as a result.