News Corp and Exor studying Formula One consortium

Milan: US media group News Corp and Italian financial holding Exor, which controls Ferrari through carmaker Fiat, are teaming up to explore options on how to run Formula One motor racing.

Formula One, which runs its races across the world, is owned by private equity firm CVC and managed by the sport`s long-time supremo Bernie Ecclestone, who is 80 years old.

Exor and News Corp "confirm they are in the early stages of exploring the possibility of creating a consortium with a view to formulating a long-term plan for the development of Formula One," the two companies said in a joint statement.

In the next few weeks, Exor and News Corp said they planned to talk to potential minority partners and the main operators involved, adding there is no certainty a proposal will be made to the current owners of Formula One.

The Turin-based Exor is the Agnelli family holding and apart from its 30 percent stake in Fiat owns the northern Italian city`s Juventus Football Club.

Fiat`s unit Ferrari, which also produces luxury sports cars for the road, declined to comment on the News/Exor project.

A bid by News Corp media group to take control of Formula One has clear logic even if it would face many challenges to secure the backing of the sport`s high profile players.

Analysts say that big manufacturers and advertisers traditionally prefer the sport shown on free-to-air channels as they have bigger potential audiences, as opposed to News Corp`s BSkyB and Sky Italia pay TV.

In April, a source told reporters that News Corp had early talks with Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim about forming a consortium to acquire control of Formula One.

A spokesman for Carlos Slim was not immediately available for comment.

"This is a project in early stage form. The main point is that Exor and News Corp will be co-leads in a project exploring options on how to run Formula One," a source close to the situation had said.

Last month, Ecclestone said News Corp`s Rupert Murdoch had a "close to zero" chance of buying Formula One.

Bureau Report

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