Liberty Media have called out the FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem for his comments on the reported $20 billion offer to buy the American company out of the sport, saying he went about things in an “unacceptable manner”.
Reports emerged last week of a $20 billion offer from the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund (PIF) for the F1. Sulayem has since reacted to the reports in a series of Twitter posts. He wrote:
“As the custodians of motorsport, the FIA, as a non-profit organisation, is cautious about alleged inflated price tags of $20bn being put on F1.
“Any potential buyer is advised to apply common sense, consider the greater good of the sport and come with a clear, sustainable plan – not just a lot of money.
“It is our duty to consider what the future impact will be for promoters in terms of increased hosting fees and other commercial costs, and any adverse impact that it could have on fans.”
Liberty Media’s legal team have written a pretty damning letter to the FIA. According to Sky News, the letter states that Sulayem “overstepped the bounds of the FIA’s remit”.
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The legal heads of F1 and its owner, Liberty Media, reacted to Ben Sulayem’s tweets by sending a letter to the FIA, excerpts of which were published by Sky News, saying his comments had “overstep[ped] the bounds of the FIA’s remit”. The letter continues:
“Commenting on the value of a listed entity, especially claiming or implying possession of inside knowledge while doing so, risks causing substantial damage to the shareholders and investors of that entity, not to mention potential exposure to serious regulatory consequences.
“To the degree that these comments damage the value of Liberty Media Corporation, the FIA may be liable as a result.
“F1’s commercial rights, which are split from the regulatory side of the sport by a 100-year lease, were bought by Liberty Media in 2017 for $4.4 billion.
The legal team added:
“Formula One has the exclusive right to exploit the commercial rights in the FIA Formula One World Championship. Further, the FIA has given unequivocal undertakings that it will not do anything to prejudice the ownership, management and/or exploitation of those rights.
“We consider that those comments, made from the FIA president’s official social media account, interfere with those rights in an unacceptable manner.
“The circumstances in which the FIA would have any role in a change of control of the F1 group are very limited.
“Any suggestion or implication to the contrary, or that any potential purchaser of the F1 business is required to consult with the FIA, is wrong.”