To the casual observer, it would seem at least likely that F1 is owned by the FIA. It is, after all, known as the FIA Formula One World Championship. But in actuality, as far as the commercial rights are concerned, the sport is effectively owned by an intricate web of investment companies. But now the FIA has taken back at least a small part of it.

According to Forbes, the FIA has taken possession of 45,819,734 ordinary shares in Delta Topco, the holding company presided over by Bernie Ecclestone and which controls the Formula One Group. That may seem like a lot of shares, but considering that the company is split up into more than 4 billion shares, it comes down to just 1.06 percent. The shares are said to be worth $120 million, but it does not appear that the FIA paid that much – if anything – to receive them.

That could be because F1's commercial rights ultimately belong to the FIA. However, a European Commission anti-trust investigation in 2001 ruled that the governance and commercial management of the series had to be separated, so the FIA licensed the commercial rights to Delta Topco for a period of 100 years in exchange for a one-time payment of $313.6 million.

In 2005, CVC Capital Partners (an offshoot of Citigroup) bought controlling interest in Delta Topco (and through it the Formula One Group) for $2 billion, an investment from which it has since made a reported $4.4 billion. But CVC has been looking to sell its stake. It planned on launching an IPO in 2012, a move from which the FIA was set to retake possession of 1 percent of the shares.

The combination of the economic crisis in Europe and Bernie Ecclestone's bribery scandal forced those plans to be delayed, but now it seems the FIA has gotten its shares anyway. The dividends from those shares ought to help the FIA balance its budget, which reportedly saw it lose $3.4 million on revenues of $81.5 million in 2012. Whether that one percent stake will raise the ire of European regulators, however, remains to be seen.

Share This Photo X