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FIA president under fire over F1’s $20bn remark

Mohammed Ben Sulayem
Mohammed Ben Sulayem. Photo/Sky Sports
  • The FIA president is under fire from Formula One owners
  • Sulayem on Monday said that F1’s $20bn championship value is a little inflated
  • His remarks according to F1 owners is an overstep

Mohammed Ben Sulayem, the FIA president, is under fire from Formula One owners following his remarks on the championship’s overall value.

This follows a comment by Sulayem on Monday where he said that F1’s $20bn championship value is a little inflated.

According to F1 owners in a joint statement, his remarks overstep the confines of the FIA’s mandate and its contractual rights. It further stated that the FIA could be accountable for any loss of value to liberty.

Sacha Woodward Hill, F1’s senior legal officer, and Renee Wilm, who serves in the same capacity for F1’s owner Liberty Media, are co-authors of the letter, which was delivered on Tuesday and seen by BBC Sport.

According to a 100-year leasing deal that the FIA and F1 negotiated at the beginning of this century, F1 currently owns the commercial rights to the category. The year 2017 saw the purchase of F1 by US company Liberty Media.

Ben Sulayem FIA

Fernando Alonso with FIA president Ben Sulayem. Photo by xpbimages

The letter is an incendiary rebuttal to Ben Sulayem’s comments on Twitter on Monday in response to a Bloomberg report claiming that Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) attempted and failed to purchase Formula One for that sum.

Sulayem said that any possible buyer is asked to apply common sense, consider the more significant benefit of the sport, and arrive at a clear, sustainable plan – not simply a lot of money. At this juncture, he added the $20 billion F1 value was utterly inflated.

In the event of such a sale, it is FIA’s responsibility to evaluate the long-term effects for promoters in terms of rising hosting fees and other commercial costs.

The tense relationship between F1 and the FIA, evident during Ben Sulayem’s 13-month presidency, dramatically worsened after this.

According to the letter, F1 has the exclusive right to exploit the commercial rights in the FIA F1 World Championship under the terms of the 100-year deal.

The FIA, however, made it clear that it won’t take any actions that could jeopardise the ownership, control, or utilisation of those rights.

Ben Sulayem

FIA president Ben Sulayem. Photo by Planet F1

But, F1 owners hold that Ben Sulayem’s comment interfere with their rights in an unacceptable manner. They add that the conditions in which the FIA would have any participation in a change of management of the F1 group are quite limited.

Further, that any indication or insinuation to the contrary, or that any prospective buyer of the F1 business must contact the FIA, is incorrect.

The letter stipulates that when making comments about a listed entity’s value, particularly when making claims or implying that one has inside information, one runs the risk of seriously harming the interests of the entity’s shareholders and investors and potentially facing severe regulatory repercussions.

The FIA may be accountable due to these comments to the extent that they diminish the value of Liberty Media Corporation.

F1 and Liberty hope they will not have to address these questions again.

Teresa is a journalist with years of experience in creating web content. She is a wanderlust at heart, but an outgoing sports writer with focus on tennis, athletics, football, motorsports and NBA.

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