FIA could use ‘Don King Clause’ in escalating row with F1 

The FIA could reportedly use a ‘Don King Clause’ to block a potential future sale of F1 amid an escalating row between the two parties.
(L to R): Gustav Malja (SWE) Alfa Romeo
(L to R): Gustav Malja (SWE) Alfa Romeo

It is understood the clause was inserted into the 100-year lease deal - bought two decades ago for $360m by former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone - by ex-FIA president Max Mosley and hands the FIA veto power over any sale. 

FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem appeared to reference the clause, named after the controversial boxing promoter, during his recent appearance at the Monte-Carlo Rally. 

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"The championship belongs to us, we only rented it,” he is quoted as telling reporters. 

“So far, these are only rumours about a possible sale. But the FIA should have a say and be able to assist with advice.”

Tensions between F1 and its governing body escalated in dramatic fashion this week over remarks made by Ben Sulayem. 

In a multi-part statement issued on Monday via Twitter, Ben Sulayem described Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund’s reported valuation of $20bn (16.2bn) as an “inflated price tag being put on F1”. 

F1 responded with an explosive letter accusing Ben Sulayem of overstepping his remit by making “unacceptable” comments about the championship’s value. 

Bernie Ecclestone (GBR) F1 Supremo and Max Mosley (GBR) FIA President Monaco Grand Prix, Formula One, Sunday , 22/05/05,
Bernie Ecclestone (GBR) F1 Supremo and Max Mosley (GBR) FIA President…

F1’s punchy letter cited the 100-year lease contract that gives the championship’s owners the “exclusive right” to “exploit the commercial rights”.

Liberty Media completed an $8bn takeover of F1 in 2017 and removed Ecclestone after 40 years at the helm. 

Liberty is not actively seeking to sell F1 and question marks remain over the accuracy of the claim that the Saudi PIF tried to buy the championship. 

But there is concern about the potential damage Ben Sulayem’s stance could have on the value of Liberty’s product, hence F1’s legal warning to the FIA. 

It is the latest stand-off in a long-running dispute between F1 and the FIA, who have found themselves at loggerheads over several issues during Ben Sulayem’s short reign in office, including a push to expand the grid

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