F1 slams FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem for ‘unacceptable’ claims on Twitter over takeover rumors

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ormula One has launched a resounding attack on the president of its own governing body, accusing Mohammed Ben Sulayem of “unacceptable” interference.

F1 chiefs responded to a series of tweets from the FIA ​​chairman on Monday in which he described the sport’s £16.2 billion valuation as “inflated”.

But in a bombshell letter drafted by F1’s legal team, sent to the FIA’s World Motor Sport Council, the 10 teams on the grid, and leaked to Sky News, Ben Sulayem was described as “crossing boundaries of the FIA’s mandate”, saying the FIA ​​could be “responsible” for undermining Liberty Media’s value to F1 owners.

F1’s response to Ben Sulayem’s social media posts is a dramatic escalation of tensions between the sport and the FIA. Last week, Bloomberg News reported that the Saudi Public Investment Fund had explored the possibility of a $20 billion takeover of F1.

US conglomerate Liberty Media ended Bernie Ecclestone’s reign by purchasing F1 from private equity firm CVC Capital Partners in 2017 for £6.4 billion.

Ben Sulayem, who was FIA president for 13 months, tweeted: “As guardians of motorsport, the FIA, as a non-profit organisation, is cautious about allegedly high €20bn price tags being imposed on F1.

“Every potential buyer is urged to use common sense, consider the greater good of the sport and come up with a clear and sustainable plan – not just big bucks.

“It is our duty to consider what the future impact will be on promoters in terms of increased hosting costs and other business costs, and any negative impact this may have on fans.”

But his tweets have angered the F1 hierarchy, prompting the letter – written by sports law guru Sacha Woodward Hill and Liberty Chief Legal Officer Renee Wilm – to be sent to all the key players on the grid.

It said: “Formula 1 has the exclusive right to exploit the commercial rights of the FIA ​​Formula 1 World Championship.

“In addition, the FIA ​​has made an unequivocal commitment not to do anything that could affect the ownership, management and/or exploitation of these rights.

“We believe that these comments, coming from the FIA ​​president’s official social media account, infringe on these rights in an unacceptable manner.”

The letter continued:[That] any potential buyer of Formula 1 activity is required to consult the FIA ​​is wrong”, and Ben Sulayem had “exceeded[ped] the limits of the FIA’s mandate”.

He added: “Any person or organization commenting on the value of a publicly traded entity or its subsidiaries, in particular by claiming or implying that they possess inside information, risks materially harming that entity’s shareholders and investors. to bring. , not to mention potential exposure to serious regulatory consequences.

“To the extent that these comments damage the value of Liberty Media Corporation, the FIA ​​can be held responsible.”

F1 and the FIA ​​declined to comment when contacted by PA news agency. The new F1 season starts on March 5 in Bahrain.

Additional reports from AP.

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