Motor-racing teams consider taking a stake in Formula One

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Formula One's motor-racing teams are considering whether to join forces to take a stake in the private-equity-owned Grand Prix business.

The teams are looking at a bid after News Corporation, owner of The Times newspaper, and Exor, the holding company of the Italian Agnelli family, confirmed last month that they would like to buy F1 for an estimated ¤6bn. CVC Capital Partners has not put F1 on the block, but it did acquire the business for $1.7bn more than five years ago, which is about the time a private equity firm typically sells up.

Adam Parr, the chairman of the Williams F1 team, said: "The teams have discussed the possibility [of a bid]. It would be great for us to have a significant stake, though I don't think we should control the commercial rights. We could work alongside Bernie [Ecclestone, the F1 chief executive] and someone like CVC."

Although Mr Parr said that talks were at "an early stage", he added that it would "be better if the teams owned collectively a stake in F1 and had an economic interest".

He also dismissed the News Corp/ Exor bid as having "competition issues". News Corp is looking to take full control of BSkyB, meaning that there could be a conflict of interest over the rights to a sport that is highly coveted by television companies.

The Agnelli family has a controlling stake in Fiat, the majority owner of the Ferrari F1 team. Rival teams would not want to see a business that owns one of them take full ownership of the sport.

This is a delicate time for F1. The teams are currently agreeing the latest Concorde Agreement, which sets their revenue shares from the sport and commits them to CVC

The Ferrari president, Luca di Montezemolo, threatened last month to break away from CVC when the current Concorde expires next year. A fortnight ago, Mr Parr openly criticised Mr Ecclestone's running of the sport, arguing that more modern technology needed to be introduced to improve the viewing of F1.

Williams hit the headlines in March when it floated on the Frankfurt stock exchange. Although Mr Parr is chairman and Alex Burns the chief executive, the team principal and founder, Frank Williams, is still the most readily identifiable of the leadership team.

"Frank is as passionate as ever. He is still here [at the Oxfordshire headquarters] every day," said Mr Parr. "Frank will do more for minority shareholders. He feels obliged to do more as it's his name, his life."

Mr Parr said that Williams had quickly adjusted to life as a public company. The racing timetable meant that the team was already under the media spotlight every two weeks, he said.