Auto Motor Und Sport, popularly known as AMUS, is a German news organization known for unparalleled access to the inner workings of Formula One racing. It says that Formula One Supreme Being, Bernie Ecclestone, was on hand at Monza on Saturday and told its reporter the commercial rights to the sport have been sold to Liberty Media for $8.5 billion. Eeclestone said the first half of the money will be paid next Tuesday.
The commercial rights are currently owned by private equity firm CVC Capital Partners — 35.5% — and U.S. fund manager Waddell & Reed — 20.9%percent. Ecclestone himself holds 5.3%. The balance of 8.5% is held by Bambino Trust, an instrumentality Bernie created.
Those inclined to cheer the news, assuming it means an end to Ecclestone’s meddling with the sport, may want to wait for the smoke to clear before celebrating. Asked what his role would be going forward, Ecclestone told AMUS, “I will do what I have always done. What role I play is my decision.”
One could infer from that statement that Bernie will continue ratcheting up his already exorbitant and outrageous race fees. For instance, the fate of the Italian grand prix at Monza is still up in the air. Bernie’s attitude has always been that sanctioning fees go up automatically every year no matter what the economy is doing or whether viewership is up. As he said recently, the only thing necessary to secure a Formula One race date is to meet his demands. “They must pay,” he said, with no pretense at artifice.
Recently, the FIA banned coaching of the drivers from the pit lane over the radio. Bernie figured out that people would pay to hear the chatter between drivers and their teams. Magically, the ban was been lifted in its entirety so Bernie — already one of the richest people in the world — can make even more money.
Many Formula One fans have been praying for years for Bernie — who is 86 and still doesn’t understand social media — to step aside. It remains to be seen if their wishes will be been granted at last.