QATAR IN THE RUNNING? Bernie Ecclestone won't bid a F1 race in Qatar, but will he allow the oil-rich country to have a major stake in the sport? Image: AFP / Greg Baker
• RSE/Qatar want 35.5% of F1
• Looking to acquire CVC's stake
• F1 chief says several potential bidders
LONDON, England - RSE Ventures, which owns the Miami Dolphins American football team, is said to be joining forces with oil-rich Qatar to buy a controlling stake in Formula 1.
A source familiar with the matter told Reuters on Tuesday (June 23 2015) that such a deal would be worth around $7.5-billion.
RSE is looking to acquire the 35.5% owned by private equity fund CVC Capital Partners which sold down its holding from 63% in 2012 in deals that at the time gave the business an enterprise value of $9.1-billion.
The commercial side of F1 is run by now 84-year-old British billionaire Bernie Ecclestone, the man who turned the sport into a global money-spinner during more than four decades of deal-making.
Ecclestone, a former used-cars dealer and F1 team owner, has also been a controversial figure – in 2014 he agreed to pay a German court $100-million to settle a bribery case and preserve his innocence.
CVC has twice tried to float F1, most recently in 2013, but the plans stalled and the fund instead sold stakes to US investment groups Blackrock and Waddell & Reed, along with Norway's Norges Bank.
Dieter Hahn, chairman of the supervisory board of German sports marketing media group Constantin Medien, is also involved with the investment consortium, the source said, adding that investment bank Leonardo are working with him.
Reuters could not immediately verify Hahn's precise involvement.
Reuters source added: "The key to unlocking this deal is that under Bernie F1 doesn't do much TV rights marketing. Hahn will help with that.”
Constantin Medien brought a $100-million damages claim against Ecclestone in the London High Court over his involvement in the deal that brought CVC into the sport as largest shareholder.
That claim was dismissed in 2014 but the judge made damaging observations about Ecclestone in finding him, as a witness, neither reliable nor truthful.
Goldman Sachs is working with CVC on the deal; JP Morgan is working with the buyside investors.
Ecclestone told Britain's The Times newspaper that three or four potential bidders had emerged, adding: "I have no idea whether any of these people have got closer with this but CVC is in the business of buying and selling companies.”
Neitherr CVC nor Leonardo was immediately available to comment, a Hahn spokesperson declined an opportunity to comment, and JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs had no immediate comment.
F1 has major challenges to address, among them soaring costs, financially struggling teams, a falling TV audience in some regions and failing to engage a younger audience. There are also disputes about governance, cost-cutting and giving teams more money.
Traditional races – such as the Italian F1 GP at forested Monza – could be chopped, new venues added.
Qatar is among those seeking a race but, despite its oil and gas wealth, has so far failed to secure a slot on the calendar with Ecclestone granting Bahrain an effective veto on regional rivals.
The Qataris, whose success in securing the 2022 soccer World Cup is mired in controversy over the bidding process and alleged corruption within the sport's governing body FIFA, already has a sizeable presence in motorsport with the MotoGP season-opener among other championship rounds.
Qatar's Nasser Khalifa al-Attiya is a vice-president of the International Motorcycling Federation and the International Automobile Federation (F1’s governing body) which in 2014 held in Doha its gala awards ceremony honouring all its champions in Doha.Stay with Wheels24 for the 2015 Formula 1 season. Fresh reports every day.