Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and the Qatar Sports Investment group could launch a $7.9 billion (£5 billion) attempt to buy a controlling stake in Formula One, according to Daniel Johnson of Telegraph Sport.
A joint effort may be made to take over the sport which is currently suffering dwindling interest outside of Italy and the United Kingdom, per Johnson. CVC owns 35.5 percent of the business but was unable to raise its stake to 49 percent after talks with Liberty Global and Discovery Communications in 2014.
Ross' company RSE Ventures could now be used to team-up in an attempt to gain control. The Financial Times (h/t Johnson) wrote that Ross is "keen" to maintain the presence of F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone—who has a personal five percent stake in the sport—even if he is bought out.
Ecclestone discussed the potential of selling his investment: "My shares will be sold together with theirs (CVC's). There are three or four people talking to CVC but I don't know how close things have got at this stage. If they decide to sell, they will have to tell me because I am a shareholder," he said, per Johnson.
A source in the Financial Times (h/t Paul Weaver of the Guardian), noted Ross and his investment partners "believe he (Ecclestone) brings a lot to the sport and they can help expand it into the U.S. and Chinese markets."
Qatar Sports Investments own French football champions Paris Saint-Germain. Although the company holds stakes in Fisker Automotive and the Volkswagen Group, Johnson believes "motor racing is the one major blank spot in Qatar's portfolio."
A huge cash injection at PSG has seen the side win three consecutive Ligue 1 titles and usher in an era of success. Star names such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva and Edinson Cavani have joined the club in a bid to make the capital-based team competitive on a European scale. The project is progressing, perhaps inevitably, toward Champions League glory.
Johnson suggests the company has upped its interest in Formula One alongside the ongoing FIFA corruption scandal, in which the voting process for the 2022 Qatar World Cup has come under criminal investigation. It is suggested FIFA officials accepted bribes in exchange for votes to host the tournament in the Arab country.
Alongside diminishing interest in Formula One—Johnson notes viewer numbers for the Austrian Grand Prix were down 40 percent over last year—it is reported CVC has slowly decreased its stake over the last few seasons. It sold $1.6 billion (£1 billion) shares in 2012 but then failed "to float the sport on the Singapore stock exchange" in the same year.
A lack of competitiveness in the sport, highlighted by lopsided splits of the prize money, continues to fuel the flame for teams to drop out. Red Bull team owner Dietrich Mateschitz is one of the men who threatens to withdraw.
Ross and QSI's ability to secure a controlling stake could change the sport for the better. The domination of Mercedes, just like Red Bull before it, isn't helping Formula One attract new fans across the globe. QSI has already proven itself capable of rejuvenating a brand after breathing new life into PSG.
CVC's exit would be welcomed by Force India boss Bob Fernley, who named the company "the worst thing to ever happen to Formula One," per Weaver. As such, the sport is moving through a transitional period in which many major decisions need to be made.