Further conflict between Sulayem and FOM?

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mario
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Further conflict between Sulayem and FOM?

Post by mario »

Having seen the rather noticeable difference in response from Mohammed Ben Sulayem and FOM/Liberty Media over Andretti's public announcements to submit an application, we now have another public spat to mull over.

A few days ago, Bloomberg published an article claiming that the Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund (the Public Investment Fund, or PIF) approached Liberty Media about buying FOM. They have claimed that the PIF proposal would have valued the sport at $20 billion, but it appears that Liberty Media declined the offer and told PIF that they were not interested in a deal and discussions petered out quite quickly.

In response, we've had Mohammed Ben Sulayem taking to his personal social media accounts to criticise the proposal, stating the following:“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. 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.”

In response, we've had a rather terse and angry letter from FOM to Sulayem complaining that he was interfering in their commercial affairs in an unacceptable manner that breached the terms of the agreement between the FIA and FOM, and stated that his comments "risks causing substantial damage to the shareholders and investors of that entity, not to mention potential exposure to serious regulatory consequences".

Given that all reports of the talks between Liberty Media and the PIF indicate that there was very little interest from FOM in PIF's proposal, it seems odd that Sulayem has reacted in quite such a public way. It's also questionable, given the terms of the deal that the FIA, FOM and the European Commission struck over the handling of F1's commercial rights, if Sulayem should be making those sorts of statements given that it has a direct impact on the commercial value of F1.

It does seem to be the case that Sulayem wants to place himself at the centre of a number of stories that involve F1 - it's been noted that Sulayem has been bypassing the FIA's own communications team and has largely operated on his own with his more recent statements to the press, almost as if he wants himself, and not the organisation he leads, to be the focus of attention.
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Rob Dylan
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Re: Further conflict between Sulayem and FOM?

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This whole story strikes me with many assumptions. Firstly it was the heads of the legal teams publicly admonished Ben Sulayem. That shows to me that they want to cement their authority over someone who "doesn't get with the programme" and also probably that the €20b offer was more than just glanced at. We've seen the Saudis get whatever they want, be it 15 years for a race contract, or whatever else. Perhaps there's a dash of hope that F1 won't continuously sell to the short term highest bidder.

Whatever his motives, I prefer Ben Sulayem to the invisibility of Jean Todt, who allowed this stagnation of authority. Some semblance of transparency I greatly prefer, and anything that grinds the gears of those in monopolistic power is alright in my book.
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Row Man Gross-Gene
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Re: Further conflict between Sulayem and FOM?

Post by Row Man Gross-Gene »

I'd love it if Sulayem was legitimately concerned with actively protecting the sport from more excessive and overt investment that would almost certainly increase ticket prices and subscription costs etc (not to mention the sportswashing tendencies of the Saudis). Part of me wonders if he knows of an Emirati offer coming in the range of, say, $10-12 billion. I know that's cynical as all hell, but...
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Row Man Gross-Gene
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Re: Further conflict between Sulayem and FOM?

Post by Row Man Gross-Gene »

I should say that this really hits home for me because we've just been having a major discussion about the Saudi's in sports in my other chosen sport of golf. The Saudis invested about $2 billion in starting a new men's professional golf tour and it has caused no end of consternation and arguments, so I'm extremely glad they were rebuffed in this case. It's actually a little surprising the offer wasn't accepted, fiduciary rules in the US often oblige publicly-traded corporations to make decisions that benefit existing shareholders over the future of the company as a whole. If you wonder how that works, just look at twitter accepting an outrageously high offer and subsequent tanking.
It's just unbelievable...that Formula 1 could be such a ridiculous melange of idiots.

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mario
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Re: Further conflict between Sulayem and FOM?

Post by mario »

Rob Dylan wrote: 26 Jan 2023, 12:33 This whole story strikes me with many assumptions. Firstly it was the heads of the legal teams publicly admonished Ben Sulayem. That shows to me that they want to cement their authority over someone who "doesn't get with the programme" and also probably that the €20b offer was more than just glanced at. We've seen the Saudis get whatever they want, be it 15 years for a race contract, or whatever else. Perhaps there's a dash of hope that F1 won't continuously sell to the short term highest bidder.

Whatever his motives, I prefer Ben Sulayem to the invisibility of Jean Todt, who allowed this stagnation of authority. Some semblance of transparency I greatly prefer, and anything that grinds the gears of those in monopolistic power is alright in my book.
I'm not sure that I agree that having the legal representatives of FOM sending that letter was necessarily about "cementing their authority" over Sulayem, nor that it might be evidence that the offer was "more than just glanced at".

The reports provided so far indicate there has been quite limited interaction between PIF and Liberty Media, with some sources suggesting that the talks might not even have progressed far enough for PIF to have actually made an offer to Liberty Media.

The other aspect is that, although Sulayem is commenting about these claims now, it seems that there has been a noticeable gap in discussions. There are some suggestions that it has been at least several months - perhaps even more than a year - since PIF last contacted Liberty Media, and that PIF seems to have, at least for now, abandoned any plans to try to buy into Liberty Media. Instead, their new strategy is reportedly trying to persuade some of the teams to move part of their operations to Saudi Arabia (e.g. research and development facilities, logistics hubs and so forth).

As noted by Row Man Gross-Gene, there is also the question of US regulatory requirements, given the sport is listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange.

The SEC is currently involved in some rather high profile cases that have revolved around charging individuals with making statements on social media channels that could be seen as manipulating the value of a company, either positively or negatively. Some have suggested that part of the reason for Liberty Media reacting rather sharply is that Sulayem's statements could have been seen by the SEC as a way of trying to manipulate the share price of the sport downwards.

The indirect mention of Elon Musk in Row Man Gross-Gene's is appropriate, considering that it's not that long ago that questions were raised about whether Musk broke the SEC's rules on market manipulation when he commented about Tesla being "overvalued", causing the share price of Tesla to drop sharply. In sharply criticising FOM and calling the sport "overvalued", Sulayem could be seen as attracting unwelcome attention from the SEC about whether that might constitute a form of market manipulation.
Martin Brundle, on watching a replay of Grosjean spinning:
"The problem with Grosjean is that he want to take a look back at the corner he's just exited"
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