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Ecclestone: No chance of NewsCorp buying F1

Caroline Reid
Saturday 30 April 2011 00:00 BST

Formula One (F1) boss Bernie Ecclestone says News Corporation would effectively be blocked from buying his racing series due to an agreement he has made with the European Commission (EC).

Speculation that Rupert Murdoch's News Corp might be considering a joint bid for F1 with Carlos Slim, the world's richest man, is continuing. However, speaking to The Independent, Mr Ecclestone said: "I'm sure the European Commission wouldn't let it go through because our agreement with them was to keep F1 on free-to-air television."

That deal dates from 1999, MrEcclestone said, when the EC's competition commission investigated F1 after claims its governing body, the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), and Ecclestone had too much control over the racing series.

Mr Ecclestone said he believed F1 to be worth "$6bn to $7bn", which would make it hard for News Corp to justify the purchase knowing it would then be forced to allow its free-to-air rivals to broadcast the racing series.

Mr Ecclestone added that even without the EC deal, News Corp would struggle to put the sport on its premium channels. "Do you think the FIA or the teams would go along with that, because all of a sudden there is no free-to-air television."

F1 teams will receive an estimated $850m from sponsorship this year and this revenue is driven by wide exposure on free-to-air television. F1 got 527 million viewers last year, more than any other sports series.

Quashing another rumour about a bid for F1 from Abu Dhabi's Mubadala sovereign wealth fund, Mr Ecclestone said: "[Current owner] CVC hasn't bothered to reply to them." Although he said CVC had no plans to sell F1, Mr Ecclestone did say he would approve of a sale to another private equity firm. "I am very happy with CVC. I have no problem with them. If it comes to a sale to another company like that I would have no problem."

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