The PIF was reportedly ready to offer $20 billion for Liberty Media-owned Formula 1 to no avail — but you’d be naive to think that another ludicrous offer isn’t coming eventually.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s sovereign Public Investment Fund has either succeeded or attempted to buy its way into golf, soccer, and pro wrestling. Now, car racing is reportedly in its sights.
A Bloomberg report published Friday maintains that the PIF was willing to offer Formula 1 owner Liberty Media roughly $20 billion, including debt, to purchase the world’s most popular auto racing outfit. That would be an impressive ROI compared to the $4.4 billion the Atlanta Braves owners spent to buy F1 from private equity fund CVC. Liberty reportedly declined the offer, however, not looking to part with a product that’s shown explosive growth over the last five years — F1’s most recent quarterly earnings report in November saw Q3 revenue increase from $668 million in 2021 to $715 million in 2022.
Even without having the sport to itself, the Saudi royal family has steadily increased its imprint in the sport over the last few years through the petroleum-funded PIF. The F1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix debuted in 2021 in Jeddah and is expected to remain on the schedule through at least 2027. Saudi Aramco is a partner with F1, including as a sponsor of Aston Martin‘s racing team; the Public Investment bought a minority stake in Aston Martin Lagonda Global Holdings plc last year.
It’s already been a big year for the PIF, which officially expanded is breakaway LIV Golf competition for 2023 and recently secured a media rights deal to broadcast matches in the US on The CW. It completed its purchase of Premier League side Newcastle United, and is understood to be a potential suitor to purchase WWE if the company ultimately decides to sell.
A Saudi Arabia F1 takeover isn’t moving ahead — for now — but this latest wave of sportwashing isn’t going away. If there’s a sports league or entertainment brand around the world with enough eyes on it, it appears increasingly likely that Saudi Arabia will at least consider putting in a blockbuster bid to acquire it.
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