F1 'rejected £16bn Saudi Arabia takeover offer'

Formula One F1- Saudi Arabian Grand Prix - Jeddah Corniche Circuit, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia - December 5, 2021 - REUTERS/Ahmed Yosri/File Photo
Formula One F1- Saudi Arabian Grand Prix - Jeddah Corniche Circuit, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia - December 5, 2021 - REUTERS/Ahmed Yosri/File Photo

Saudi Arabia failed in a bid to buy Formula One from Liberty Media last year amid the Netflix Drive to Survive boom, sources close to talks claim.

Talks broke down but the wealthy nation, which hosts the opening race of the 2024 season, remains keen on expansion in the sport.

Insiders close to both sides of the failed deal told Telegraph Sport that meetings had taken place in recent years, but not in recent months. The Bloomberg agency claimed Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund was ready to spend £16 billion – a huge uplift on Liberty's £3.3bn deal in 2017.

FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem has expressed concern about such high prices being touted:

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Liberty Media tracking stock representing the F1 business has more than doubled in the past four years, giving it a reported market value of about $15.2 billion.

However, Ben Sulayem added:

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In an interview with Autosport, the FIA president suggested the price is "inflated". "It's exaggerated," he added. "Talking with common sense, is it worth that much?"

The Middle East will host four races in the 2023 season, with the first two in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia in March. Saudi Aramco, the world’s biggest oil producer, struck a landmark sponsorship deal with F1 in 2020.

Telegraph Sport detailed a fortnight how there remains talk in Saudi Arabia of ambitions to buy out Liberty Media. For now, however, Saudi Arabia is believed to be planning to talk to manufacturers about potentially building new hubs to build on its deals to host Grand Prix.

In boxing, meanwhile, Tyson Fury is all but certain to fight again in Riyadh this year. Plans for football are more opaque, possibly due to the Public Investment Fund's ownership at Newcastle. Government ministers have played down any state-backed plans to buy Liverpool or Manchester United although Prince Abdulaziz Bin Turki Al Faisal, the nation's sports minister, told Telegraph Sport that clubs will "appeal to many investors not just in Saudi Arabia or the Middle East but from across the world".

He said Saudi Arabia's will launch more detailed plans over their plans for sport in a matter of weeks. "We will soon be launching our national sports strategy, which also sits under Vision 2030, and groups everything we are doing in sports under one umbrella with clear objectives and KPIs," he added. "We are also placing a very strong focus on nurturing and empowering sports economy and ensure Saudi athletes compete at the highest level internationally."

Buying F1 would spark a storm of criticism for Saudi Arabia. The murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi and ongoing executions remain disastrous for Saudi's efforts to earn new Western allies.