Bernie Ecclestone has again sought to shoot down Rupert Murdoch's aspirations to gain control of F1, asserting that the media mogul should 'accept' that current majority owners CVC Capital Partners 'don't want to sell', admitting his hopes that the sport's teams 'come to their senses' over the issue and arguing that pay-per-view TV coverage 'would be suicidal'.
The grand prix paddock has been abuzz with talk of late about the joint investigation between Murdoch's News Corporation behemoth – the third-largest media organisation in the world – and Italian financial holding Exor into a potential takeover of F1. The bid also ostensibly boasts the support of Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim – whose Telmex telecommunications giant currently sponsors Sauber – and is seeking further backers to 'explore the possibility' of forming an investment consortium.
Right from the outset, Ecclestone has been adamant that private equity firm CVC – which purchased the commercial rights to the sport five years ago and owns 63.4 per cent of F1's Jersey-based parent company Delta Topco – has absolutely no intention of relinquishing the reins [see separate story – click here
], adding that he is 'very happy' with the present partnership.
“CVC has given the answer,” stressed the Formula One Management (FOM) chief executive, speaking to the official F1 website and conceding that he has no power of veto over any sale. “They are the major shareholders and they do not want to sell. That is 100 per cent for sure.
“Somebody might say that they want to do it, but it doesn't mean that when somebody wants to buy something, the owner wants to sell. CVC made it very clear that they don't want to sell – and if people don't want to sell, others have to accept that fact. It's as simple as that.
“Firstly, they didn't know if it was for sale, and secondly, they didn't know what the price tag was. I would never start to say that I'm interested in something without knowing how much it is. There have been so many rumours out there lately and I go along with Colin Chapman – why spoil a good story with the truth?”
Contending that in any case, 'these people will have to prove what they want to do' and quipping that 'I would want to buy lots of things and I don't have the money, so we will have to wait and see', Ecclestone went on to mull over the potential ramifications for the sport's television coverage were Murdoch to assume the helm and take F1 away from current free-to-air broadcaster the BBC to his own pay-per-view BSkyB network.
He also offered his view on the anticipated meeting between representatives from leading teams Red Bull Racing, McLaren-Mercedes, Ferrari and Mercedes Grand Prix in Stuttgart on Saturday to discuss the new Concorde Agreement, F1's technical regulations and the sport's future ownership.
“I thought that Ferrari won't need to go because one of the people who hopes he's going to be an investor owns Ferrari, so that whole story sounds a bit weird,” he retorted, alluding to the fact that Exor is majority-owned by the same Agnelli family that holds a controlling stake in FIAT and therefore, by extension, Ferrari.