American Formula One takeover edges closer but subject to European Commission sign-off

Oliver Gill
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F1 Testing In Barcelona - Day One
Gene Haas launched a US-based F1 team at the start of the year (Source: Getty)

The eagerly-anticipated sale of Formula One to Liberty Media will need to navigate a series of tight chicanes including potential scrutiny by the European Commission (EC).

Private equity fund CVC is putting the final touches to a $9.1bn (£6.8bn) deal that will see the American media giant take full control of Formula One . Fox media mogul Chase Carey is expected to takeover as chairman tomorrow with the sale expected to be signed on Tuesday.

However, the brakes could be applied as Liberty would be subject to European anti-competition laws given Liberty’s considerable interests in the EU.

Read more: Liberty Media in pole position on Formula One deal with £6.4bn bid

Also put under microscope by the EC authorities will be a one per cent shareholding by Formula One’s governing body, the FIA. Despite agreeing with EC not to have any commercial interest in Formula One, the FIA purchased its stake in advance of the aborted float of Formula One in 2013

The FIA could also block the deal through its authority as a regulator – creating a conflict of interest between its regulatory responsibilities and commercial interests.

Meanwhile Formula One chief executive Bernie Ecclestone refused to be drawn over his future role if the Liberty deal were to go ahead. Former team owner Eddie Jordan said it would mean the end of Ecclestone’s influence in the sport.

"I will do what I have always done. What role I play is my decision,” Ecclestone – who also owns a 5.3 per cent stake in Formula One – told German magazine Auto motor und sport.

Read more: Sky and Liberty compete with Qatari investors for F1 deal

The deal would cap a rapid turnaround in US commercial interest in the sport. After not featuring in Formula 1 during the majority of the 1980s and 1990s, Austin entered into agreement to host the US Grand Prix from 2012. In 2016 US stock-car team owner Gene Haas launched a new team, the first US-based team on the Formula 1 circuit since the early 1980s.

In advance of the Liberty deal it was reported that Carey – currently the executive vice-chairman of 21st Century Fox – was to be announced as new chairman of Formula One.

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