Max Mosley Q&A: Liberty Media, Bernie Ecclestone and more...
By Sky Sports News HQ's Craig Slater
Last Updated: 19/09/16 2:27pm
Sky Sports News HQ's Craig Slater spoke to former FIA president Max Mosley about the Liberty Media takeover of F1, discussing the buyout, Bernie Ecclestone, cracking America and a host of other topics. You can read the full Q&A here...
The FIA will sanction Liberty's takeover but can make $90m from it - is that a conflict of interest?
Max Mosley: "You could say that I suppose. They have to sanction it in the sense they are entitled to look at the purchaser. If it was the head of the mafia they could say no - if it is a reasonable purchaser, it is not open to the FIA to block it.
"As far as the inducement, the $90m you mention, there is a deal apparently. They have one percent of the commercial rights that's arguably contrary to the deal we agreed with the European Commission in 1991. They stated if we wanted to be the governing body and wanted to stop anyone starting a new rival federation - as they have in boxing and other sports - then we should have no commercial interest in any part of motorsport because we might aid one rather than another.
"So it may be that the Commission might come along and say you can't do that. It is the principal which is important. The FIA get a proper fee for the work they do - but they can't have a commercial interest in any branch of motorsport."
Were Liberty Media Bernie's preferred buyers?
MM: "I don't know. I've not discussed that aspect of it with him and I think he's always recognised when he sold a majority interest to CVC, that sooner or later they would sell the business and he would have to live with that."
Will Bernie and Liberty arrange separate areas of responsibility?
MM: "Anybody who took it over would want Bernie to continue to do what he does - because he has been very successful. But they might want to exploit those aspects of the sport that are not being exploited at the moment - that's anything to do with the internet, anything to do with interactive media and some of those more way out things like virtual reality. All those things are sitting there waiting to be exploited. It would make sense that new people would have expertise in that area."
Is the personal relationship between Ecclestone and new chairman Chase Carey key?
MM: "I think that is very important. Much depends on Chase Carey the chairman and how he gets on with Bernie. Bernie is a very rational person and when we were working together we often started with two different views and almost always ended up agreeing.
"Bernie has this reputation of not wanting people with him but really that's mainly because the people concerned were not very good. Anybody competent around I think he appreciates them."
What if Liberty want to do things Bernie doesn't?
MM: "I imagine because they control the company they could simply outvote him but that's been the case for more than the last ten years."
How would Mr Ecclestone react to that?
MM: "It would entirely depend on what the decision was. There are things that you could have two views on and it doesn't really matter. Then there are things that are absolutely fundamental in any business and that would be a resigning issue. But I think that is unlikely to happen. It's not in anybody's interest that it should happen."
So he won't walk away?
"MM: I don't think so, but I may be proved wrong. One thing about Bernie is he's in a position to walk away, he'll do what he likes so he'll do what suits him. What that turns out to be is very unpredictable. But the balance of probability is things will run smoothly."
Does Mr Ecclestone still hold leverage in terms of decision making?
MM: "I think he holds enormous leverage not because of voting shares but because he gets the job done. Bernie has enormous power because of his abilities, his power is because of what he can do."
Will Mr Ecclestone retire at the end of his three-year contract?
MM: "I don't know, I haven't asked him. But my feeling would be that if he still feels good in three years time and the owners agree he'll go on. Then we may well see him as the first 90-year-old chief executive of a major company."
There has been speculation Liberty as an American company might want to equalise payments to teams. Would they meet Ferrari resistance?
MM: "They might meet resistance but in the end it would be futile because they would have the power to do that. If it's a question of rules they have to get FIA onside. Ferrari in the past have quarrelled with the FIA. They threatened to start building cars for American series saying we'll start F1 in America. The fact is in the end everybody's interests go in the same way, Ferrari need F1's interests to be big and successful. They don't need a Formula One in which they win all the time."
Will the new owners dare cut Ferrari's payments?
MM: "If it were me I would. I'd just say to them because you are famous Ferrari we want you. But because you are famous you get more sponsorship than others. That would be the thing to do and Ferrari would go along with it."
Should teams have a financial stake in F1 as Liberty have proposed?
MM: "I don't mind them having a financial stake I just wouldn't want them having managerial input. We've got example after example in America of teams taking over a series and then they kill it. They're in business to race each other and win. The individuals running the business have an interest in making the whole series work."
Will this takeover prove what's needed to break America?
MM: "It could be, but you see the fundamental problem with America as far as motorsport is concerned is that it's a saturated market. It's not like going to one of these countries that Bernie's been going to that don't have a motorsport culture."