Formula One bosses have hit back at FIA chief Mohammed Ben Sulayem’s social media comments suggesting they were ‘unacceptable’. The 61-year-old has argued against rumours that the sport could be bought out for £16billion following a report last week that the Saudi Arabian Public Investment fund (PIF) was contemplating a takeover bid.
In a letter sent by Sacha Woodward Hill, F1’s legal supremo, and Renee Wilm, chief legal and administrative officer of Liberty Media Corporation to the sport’s team argues that the FIA has strayed beyond its remit.
According to Sky News, the letter reads: “Formula 1 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 letter goes on to state that the FIA have no power over the control of Formula One, stating: “Any potential purchaser of the Formula 1 business is required to consult with the FIA is wrong”.
The letter is believed to have concluded by calling out Ben Sulayem directly while also suggesting the FIA would be liable if Liberty Media’s value took a hit.
Ben Sulayem “overstep[ped] the bounds of the FIA’s remit, saying that “any individual or organisation commenting on the value of a listed entity or its subsidiaries, 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.”
The development comes following a report from Bloomberg last week that Saudi Arabia had explored a bid to buy the sport for £16bn. The news left FIA chief Ben Sulayem concerned and he aired his opinion via his Twitter page.
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.”
Neither Formula One nor the PIF have yet publically commented on the initial Bloomberg report. It remains to be seen how the situation will develop amid the tense stand off between Formula One and its governing body.