US investment company RSE Ventures is said to be teaming up with Qatar to take a major investment in F1, according to a report by the Financial Times today.
The report suggests that the two parties want to buy 35.5% of F1 from the CVC Group for a price of $7-8bn – and that the ultimate aim is for Qatar to own the whole of F1. However it adds that no formal bid has been made, and due diligence is still being undertaken.
Headed by 75-year-old Stephen M Ross, RSE describes itself as “a sports and entertainment venture firm building, operating, and investing in exceptional companies,” adding that it operates “sports, media and entertainment properties that deliver world-class experiences.”
It is best known for owning the Miami Dolphins. Its portfolio also includes soccer‘s Guinness International Champions Cup, various other sports and media properties, including Fanvision, the handheld TV device company that was involved with F1 until two years ago.
It’s worth noting that Chief Operating Officer Arne Rees has interesting background, having worked for UBS, ESPN and UEFA in the past. Indeed he was Head of Strategic Business Development at the football organisation, responsible for growing the Champions League and European Championship.
Meanwhile Qatar Sports Investments is part of the Qatar Investment Authority, the country’s sovereign wealth fund. QSI is best known for owning top French soccer team Paris St German, while intriguingly QIA also owns 17% of the VW Group – which has of course been eyeing an F1 involvement for years.
The suggestion is that the controversy surrounding FIFA and the 2022 World Cup has led to Qatar accelerating its F1 plans, which include hosting a Grand Prix.
In February the chief of the Qatari ASN (QMMF) Nasser bin Khalifa al-Attiyah, a rally driver who has been the FIA Vice-President for sport in the Middle East since December 2013, said that a contract was about to be completed for a third Grand Prix in the region.
“We are about to sign contracts to organise a Formula One race,” Al-Attiyah told agency AFP. “We have completed all the steps and there are only a few details before the official signature.”
In 2012 CVC sold part of its F1 stake to Black Rock, Norges Bank and Waddell & Reed.
Intriguingly some observers have suggested that some recent criticism of the sport has been fuelled by certain parties wanting to drive the price down, with some suggesting that Bernie Ecclestone, who still owns 5%, wants to buy it back.
It remains to be seen how that theory would get with the RSE/Qatari bid.
Meanwhile when I asked RSE about its interest in F1 I was told: “Unfortunately at this time we have no comment.”