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News Corp and Agnellis planning F1 bid

ESPNF1 Staff
May 4, 2011 « Fernandes not expecting progress | »
The Agnellis are shareholders in FIAT Group, the car manufacturer that owns Ferrari © Sutton Images

The battle for the control of Formula One hotted up last night with news that Exor, an investment firm controlled by the Agnelli family who run the car giant Fiat which in turn owns Ferrari, has confirmed it is investigating the prospect of a takeover bid with News Corporation.

A fortnight ago reports suggested News Corporation and Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim were looking to launch a co-bid, but the announcement yesterday by Exor seems to have circumvented that.

"Exor, one of Europe's largest listed investment companies, and News Corporation, the global media group, confirm that they are in the early stages of exploring the possibility of creating a consortium with a view to formulating a long-term plan for the development of Formula One in the interests of the participants and the fans," read the statement.

"Over the coming weeks and months, Exor and News Corporation will approach potential minority partners and key stakeholders in the sport. There can be no certainty that this will lead to an approach to Formula One's current owners."

The current ownership structure of Formula One's commercial rights is complex but the majority is owned by CVC Capital Partners and it is run by Bernie Ecclestone. Ecclestone maintained that a sale was unlikely unless News Corporation and Exor were willing to pay over the odds.

CVC, which purchased its holding for £1.8 billion in 2006, confirmed that it has been approached, with Rupert Murdoch's son James the News Corp representative.

"CVC can confirm that it has recently received an approach from the EXOR News Corporation consortium," a spokesman said. "James Murdoch has informed us that the approach is friendly, at a very preliminary stage, and that they acknowledge that 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."

Exor, which is listed on the Borsa Italiana, is a major shareholder in Fiat Group, the car manufacturer that owns the Ferrari, Maserati and Alfa Romeo brands. It also owns 60% of Juventus.