London: Formula One's owners have been approached by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. about a potential joint takeover bid with the investors behind Ferrari, the sport's oldest team.
Private equity firm CVC Capital Partners, which has owned the rights to F1 since 2006, said Tuesday it has received a "friendly" approach from News Corp.
Exor, the holding company of the Agnelli family, has a controlling 30 percent stake in global automaker Fiat Group — the majority owner of sports car manufacturer Ferrari, which has competed in every F1 championship since it was launched in 1950.
CVC maintains that it is not actively trying to sell F1, but a statement opens the door to future takeover talks.
"(News Corp. chairman and chief executive) James Murdoch has informed us that the approach is friendly, at a very preliminary stage, and that they acknowledge that Formula One is privately owned by CVC and not currently for sale," CVC said.
"CVC recognizes the quality of Exor and News Corporation as potential investors, but any investment in Formula One will require CVC's agreement and will need to demonstrate that it is in the interest of the sport and its stakeholders, taken as a whole."
News Corp. showed how seriously it is pursuing a potential bid by making its first public comments on the matter from New York.
In a joint statement with Exor, News Corp. announced they are discussing the "possibility of creating a consortium with a view to formulating a long-term plan for the development of Formula One in the interests of the participants and the fans."
The companies added that "over the coming weeks and months ... they will approach potential minority partners and key stakeholders in the sport."
But they cautioned that there "can be no certainty" they will go ahead with a bid for the sport which F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone has valued F1 at around $6 billion,
A potential stumbling block to any takeover is the current Concorde Agreement between F1's commercial rights holder, its governing body FIA and the participating teams.
A clause in the agreement, which expires at the end of the 2012 season, stipulates that races should be shown on free-to-air television where possible rather than on subscription networks that have proved so profitable for Murdoch.
News Corp.'s U.S. media outlets include Fox Television, while the British government has approved its plans to buy the 61 percent of satellite broadcaster BSkyB it does not already own.
Another hurdle to overcome would be Turin-based Exor being part of a bid for the sport given that it controls Ferrari through Fiat.