Ecclestone insists rights are not for sale

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The Independent Online

The owners of Formula One yesterday echoed the words of Bernie Ecclestone by insisting the sport is not for sale. The Italian investment company Exor and media giant News Corporation confirmed their interest in a potential takeover of F1 on Tuesday.

The consortium pitches media mogul Rupert Murdoch together with the powerful Agnelli family who, among many interests, run Fiat, which in turn owns Ferrari.

However Ecclestone, the sport's chief executive, yesterday said that private equity firm CVC, which holds the commercial rights to F1, had no interesting in releasing its asset at present. Ecclestone, who operates as CVC's chief executive, said: "I know they don't want to sell, so it's going to be a bit difficult. I can see CVC in for the long haul, absolutely, 100 per cent."

A statement released on Tuesday by CVC confirmed an approach has been made, albeit a tentative early enquiry, but underlines the fact F1 is not on the market. "CVC can confirm that it has recently received an approach from the Exor/News Corporation consortium," read the statement. "James Murdoch has informed us the approach is friendly, at a very preliminary stage, and they acknowledge Formula One is privately owned by CVC and not currently for sale.

"CVC recognises the quality of Exor and News Corporation as potential investors, but any investment in Formula One 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 is clear from the remarks made by CVC, who purchased F1 in 2006 for £1.8bn, that it is not totally ruling out Exor and News Corporation as likely future backers. Given CVC is currently in debt following its acquisition of F1, with the projection it will remain so until 2014, investment is not beyond the realms of possibility. However, as Ecclestone also remarked, everything has its price and CVC could sell if the money was right.

"If somebody came along and offered them a lot more money than it's worth, they would obviously say, 'Sit down, let's have a chat,'" added Ecclestone. "But I get the distinct feeling that's not going to happen."