FIA boss addresses report of £16bn Saudi F1 takeover bid

FIA boss addresses report of £16bn Saudi F1 takeover bid

FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem is “cautious” after reports emerged that Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund have submitted a £16bn takeover bid for Formula 1’s commercial rights.

A report in Bloomberg over the weekend suggested that the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (PIF) - which has a majority stake in Newcastle United FC and is chaired by Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman - have tabled an offer over $20bn (£16bn) to F1 owners Liberty Media for the rights of the sport.

While this was reportedly rejected, Ben Sulayem took to social media to publicise his views, insisting the alleged price tag was “inflated” and any potential buyer needs to “apply common sense... not just a lot of money.”

Yet Sky Sports are reporting that senior figures in Formula 1 - seperate from the FIA, the sport’s governing body - are unimpressed that Ben Sulayem is speaking out on matters which are not his direct remit.

“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,” Ben Sulayem tweeted.

“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.”

Mohammed Ben Sulayem is “cautious” after reports emerged that Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund have submitted a £16bn takeover bid for Formula 1’s commercial rights (Getty Images)
Mohammed Ben Sulayem is “cautious” after reports emerged that Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund have submitted a £16bn takeover bid for Formula 1’s commercial rights (Getty Images)

However, Sky added that the report of a submitted Saudi bid was wide of the mark.

It is not the first time Ben Sulayem has aired his thoughts on recent ongoings during the Formula 1 off-season. The 61-year-old supported Andretti’s bid to join Formula 1 alongside General Motors - using the Cadillac brand - while F1 released a statement altogether more reserved.

Ben Sulayem took over as FIA president from Jean Todt at the start of 2022 and has not been afraid to stamp his mark immediately, having pushed for a jewellery ban on F1 drivers which Lewis Hamilton spoke out against.

US media company Liberty bought Formula 1 in 2017 for $4.6bn and has increased the value and popularity of the sport through the Netflix Drive to Survive docuseries, as well as more races in the United States and a record race calendar in 2023.

Saudi has also recently entered the world of Formula 1, hosting its first race in 2021, and signed a 10-year deal to hold a race each year until the end of 2030 - but has faced accusations of sportswashing due to its poor human rights record.