Last week, Uncle Bernie claimed that a reported plan to mount a takeover bid for Formula 1 was pure rubbish. But the fact is, since the Evil Gnome actually sold his commercial rights to F1 (which are actually leased from the FIA), he really has no say over the matter. Bernie Ecclestone is simply an employee CVC Capital Partners, the outfit that purchased those rights from him.
But that was then, and this is now. It seems that Uncle Bernie is leaving himself an out, in light of the fact that new rumors have surfaced that Rupert Murdoch and Carlos Slim (the latter being the world’s richest person, and the former being, according to some, Satan) have held exploratory talks with Ferrari, apparently sounding out the Maranello brain trust on the feasibility of taking over the sport.
Bernie might call the takeover rumors rubbish, but, the fact is, Carlos slim probably spends more on breakfast than Bernie makes in a year’s salary. If the price is right for all parties, it seems more than likely that the commercial rights of F1 might change hands. After all, a company like CVC generally buys an asset like F1 with an eye to selling that asset in about five years. As it stands, they’re behind schedule.
And what of Bernie’s future should the handover take place? It’s difficult to see Uncle Bernie and Rupert Murdoch standing atop the same heap. Ego needs plenty of elbow room, especially with these two prima donnas. But that aside, Bernie has already hinted that he might walk.
As he recently told The Sunday Times regarding the prospect of working with new owners, “I’m old enough to get a pension, so I don’t have to get a job. I’d have to be sure the people are people I would like to work with and whether they would want to work with me.”
Of course, Uncle Bernie doesn’t really need an excuse to retire: he’s 80 years old. But Bernie has always implied that he would have to be buried standing up, such was the extent of his drive to keep working, and one is tempted to take him at face value.
At the end of the day, however, one should remember that even if CVC does sell out, what they’re selling is essentially a commercial license, and not the sport itself. The sport itself is sanctioned by the FIA. FOMA might fuel the sport, but without the blessing of the FIA there would be no sport to keep fueled.