NEWS Corp has confirmed it is in talks to launch an audacious bid to take control of Formula One racing.
The firm said it is working on a bid with Italian investment firm Exor, which has a 30.5 per cent stake in Ferrari owner Fiat SpA.
A joint statement by the two said: “Exor and News Corp 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 One in the interests of the participants and the fans.”
As a competing firm, any involvement in a bid by a Ferrari’ shareholder would be controversial and likely face a competition probe.
News Corp boss Rupert Murdoch is also understood to be in talks with Mexican telecoms tycoon Carlos Slim to launch a multi-billion bid for one of the most prized assets in sport.
However, F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone has claimed Murdoch would not be allowed to bid for the sport as it would prevent a fair sale of TV rights. Ecclestone has also defended F1’s place on free-to-air TV, a state of affairs that would come under grave threat if pay-TV boss Murdoch got his hands on it.
Private equity firm CVC, which snapped up F1 in 2006 for $1.8bn (£1.1bn), confirmed last night it has received a “friendly” and “very preliminary” approach from an Exor, News Corp group about its interest in buying Formula One.
CVC “recognizes 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,” it said in a statement.
CVC is understood to be happy to hang onto its asset but city sources told City A.M. it would be tempted if a Murdoch coalition bid a suitably high figure.
Mexican telecoms billionaire Carlos Slim is understood to be in talks with Murdoch over a joint bid.