Back in June the business media first reported that F1 Group co-owner CVC Capital was interested in bidding for IMG, the long established sports management and media group.
Last week more details emerged, with Sky linking CVC to a consortium that includes Bahrain’s Mumtalakat (a shareholder in McLaren) and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (backer of the country’s Grand Prix). They are reportedly aiming for a 60/20/20 ownership split.
IMG is a successful and multifaceted business, and is obviously of interest to CVC in its own right. However the fact that other F1 related entities are involved in the bid raises the tantalising prospect of IMG becoming involved with CVC’s highest profile investment. Indeed a well placed source told this writer in Singapore that IMG “could be the future of F1.”
In other words while we have been speculating for years about which individual might one day replace Bernie Ecclestone, we should now consider that a corporate entity in the form of IMG is being teed up for the role.
One of IMG’s key strengths is in media rights, and its website claims that it is “the world’s largest independent distributor of sports programming,” and that it “distributes across all forms of media, including TV, audio, fixed media, inflight and closed circuit, broadband and mobile.” The latter two categories would seem to be ripe for exploitation by F1.
IMG has been on the fringes of F1 for decades, since Jackie Stewart first teamed up with company founder Mark McCormack in the sixties. Later the company managed other top drivers, including Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna, and most recently Heikki Kovalainen, although the Finn jumped ship earlier this year.
However, it’s long been the paddock consensus that Ecclestone is no great fan of IMG, and compared to other sports, the company’s involvement at the top level of motor racing has been relatively limited. Will that now change?
Other major bidders are also in the hunt, so there’s a chance that CVC will lose out anyway. But if it does win it will be fascinating to see if its plans for IMG really do overlap with F1…