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Liberty CEO addresses F1 sale rumours

A rumoured $20 billion bid from the Saudi Arabian PIF led to tension between F1 and the FIA earlier this year.

Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei has insisted F1 is worth a "hell of a lot more" than $20billion. The sum was allegedly offered by the Saudi Arabian PIF [Public Investment Fund] - which has made waves by taking control of Newcastle United Football Club and the PGA Tour since its shock merger in the golfing world - late last year. Reports earlier this year suggested the bid had been made and inadvertently triggered tension between F1 and the FIA after comments from the governing body's President Mohammed Ben Sulayem on Twitter. Ben Sulayem suggested the fee was "inflated", as well as stating "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." A furious letter was then sent from F1 to the FIA, signed by the sport's legal head Sacha Woodward Hill and Liberty Media Chief Legal and Administrative Officer Reneé Wilm, suggesting Ben Sulayem had interfered with commercial rights in an "unacceptable manner".

Liberty bullish over F1 future

Tension soon died over the topic, though there was no further indication over whether the bid supposedly made by PIF was legitimate or pure speculation. But now confirming the sum suggested would not have prompted consideration from Liberty Media, who acquired the sport in 2017 for $4.2 billion, from selling up when appearing on the Walker Webcast, Maffei said: “We’re a C Corp, meaning that if we sell a division, we pay corporate level tax, and then any proceeds we would pay that get distributed to our shareholders they would, in addition, pay tax. “If we were to spin Formula 1 away, create a separate company and wait a sufficient [amount] of time, [and] have no plan or intent to sell – that asset could be sold down the road, and there would be no corporate-level tax. “So what I [am] saying is, the way we are structured today, given that tax basis, we would not be sellers. “If we wish to be sellers, or even consider it, you’d need to do a spin and, spinning it away, there are other reasons why we might do that – it’s not just to do a sale, but the way we are structured that would be very unattractive. “I’ve said this publicly before, the Saudis have been partners on a couple of things – they have a race there. Aramco is a sponsor, but they never approached us. “And, frankly, $20 billion would not be an attractive price. It’s trading for 17/18, so why 20? I’d want a hell of a lot more than that. We’re pretty bullish on the future.”

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