Formula 1 owners have accused FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem of “unacceptably interfering” with the sport’s commercial rights after he commented on the value of Formula 1 on Twitter.
In a series of tweets on Tuesday Ben Sulayem responded to a Bloomberg report that Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) was considering a $20 billion bid to buy F1.
The FIA President described the figure as an “inflated price” and said it was the FIA’s duty to consider the impact such a rating could have on race organizers and fans.
As the guardian of motorsport, the FIA, as a not-for-profit organization, is wary of the allegedly inflated $20 billion price tags being imposed on Formula One. (1/3)
— Mohammed Ben Sulayem (@Ben_Sulayem) January 23, 2023
The legal heads of F1 and its owner Liberty Media responded to Ben Sulayem’s tweets by sending a letter to the FIA, excerpts of which were published by Sky newsand said his comments had “exceeded the limits of the FIA’s remit”.
It added: “Commenting on the value of a public company, particularly claiming or implying possession of inside information, carries the risk of causing significant harm to shareholders and investors in that company, not to mention the potential exposure to severe regulatory consequences.”
“To the extent that these comments damage the value of Liberty Media Corporation, the FIA may be held liable as a result.”
F1’s commercial rights, separated from the sport’s regulatory side by a 100-year lease, were bought by Liberty Media in 2017 for $4.4 billion.
F1’s letter added that under the terms of the 100-year lease, “Formula 1 has the exclusive right to exploit the commercial rights to the FIA Formula 1 World Championship.
“Furthermore, the FIA has given an unequivocal commitment not to take any action to interfere with the ownership, administration and/or exploitation of these rights.
“We believe that these comments, which originated from the official FIA President’s social media account, constitute an unacceptable interference with those rights.”
The letter also downplayed suggestions that the FIA would have a say in the sale of Formula 1 to a new owner should Liberty Media decide to sell it.
“The circumstances in which the FIA would play a role in a change of control of the F1 group are very limited,” she added.
“Any suggestion or implication to the contrary, or that prospective buyers of the F1 business need to consult with the FIA, is incorrect.”
F1 and the FIA declined to comment on the letter when contacted by ESPN.