OK, let’s begin by saying this is just a rumor. Apple is rumored to be interested in buying Formula One. But it’s enough of a rumor that it got written up in Fortune. Why? Because the source of the rumor is Joe Saward, one of the most respected, most well informed journalists covering the sport today. Here’s what Saward has to say about his credentials.
“I write primarily about motorsport and concentrate specifically on the FIA Formula 1 World Championship, the world’s leading motor racing championship. I attend all the races, and I have done since the summer of 1988. This means that I am one of a very small group of opinion formers at the very centre of this multi-billion dollar global business. I know the right people and I can go through doors that are closed to others.
“I am not simply a sports writer, as I look behind the headlines and specialise in analysing the way in which the sport affects (and is affected by) politics, finance, business, innovation and the environment – and even the influence of F1 as a tool of social development. If I use figures I do not guess, I ask.”
On Tuesday, Saward said he was hearing “whispers” of an “intensive due diligence” process underway that could ultimately lead to a sale of the sport. Another “whisper,” he said, was that Apple is the “latest bidder” for Formula One. Neither Apple nor Formula One have commented on the rumors. Saward himself says he finds it odd that Formula One won’t just deny the reports.
Why would Apple do such a thing? It is well known that Apple is working on a car of its own. Racing and car sales have been linked since the dawn of the automotive age. When NASCAR became popular in the 50’s, the popular expression in the boardrooms of Detroit was “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday.” Fortune speculates its interest could be tied to its desire to expand its AppleTV network, using Formula One as its showcase offering. Also. Apple has a ready supply of available cash — more than enough to pay the $8 billion or so buying Formula One would require.
For the last several months, Apple has been rumored to be working on starting a television service that service would allow customers to subscribe to the channels they want to watch instead of getting a package from a traditional cable company that includes channels they have no interest in. Formula One racing has an enormous TV audience, says Fortune, although there are signs interest in the sport has been declining in some markets in recent years.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has gone on record recently saying, “We’re always looking in the market about things that could complement things that we do today, become features in something we do, or allow us to accelerate entry into a category that we’re excited about,” Cook said. “And so as I said before, our test is not on the size. We would definitely buy something larger than we’ve bought thus far. It’s more about the strategic fit and whether it’s a great technology and great people. And so we continue to look and we stay very active in the M&A market.”
I am not a highly respected international reporter, but I have been attending Formula One races longer than Joe Saward. My advice to Tim Cook is: “Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.” Formula One is not the “pinnacle of motorsports” it once was. After last week’s race at Silverstone was started behind the pace car because of a wet track, former World Driving Champion Jacques Villeneuve labeled today’s drivers “babies” and “cowards.”
The sports commercial boss, Bernie Ecclestone, seems bound and determined to dilute the sport’s heritage by forsaking the renowned historic tracks in favor of new venues that are willing to pay outrageous sums of money to promote corrupt, repressive governments. Among those who follow the sport, there is a feeling that it has deteriorated to the point where it is almost unwatchable.
The best possible thing that could possibly happen to Formula One is for a new commercial rights owner to come on board and jettison Bernie Ecclestone in favor of someone who actually knows the digital revolution is underway.
Source: Fortune Photo credit: Apple
A tip of the hat to Mike Patrizio, Miami’s most avid Formula One fan!