Riyadh: Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund considered an attempt to add Formula 1 motor racing to its growing portfolio of sports investments, people familiar with the matter said.
A potential deal faltered in the early stages last year as F1’s owner Liberty Media Corp. was not interested in selling the high-profile franchise, which Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund valued at well above $20 billion including debt, the people said.
The PIF remains interested in the asset and would be a serious bidder should Liberty Media change its mind and decide to sell, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing confidential information.
Representatives for PIF and Liberty Media didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Saudi Arabia has been investing heavily in sports as it opens up to more Western-style forms of entertainment under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. In recent years, it’s bought into English Premier League football club Newcastle United FC and hosted major events in boxing, golf and F1.
F1 would represent a flagship acquisition. The sport has risen in popularity since being acquired by billionaire John Malone’s Liberty Media in a $4.4 billion deal in 2017. Liberty Media has sought to cultivate a new generation of fans by extending F1’s reach in Asia and the US and launching a direct-to-consumer streaming service.
The Middle East has been another area of focus for F1’s owners. The region will host four races in the 2023 season, with the first two set to take place in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia in March. Saudi Aramco, the world’s biggest oil producer, struck a landmark sponsorship deal with F1 in 2020.
The Liberty Media tracking stock representing the F1 business has more than doubled in the past four years, giving it a market value of about $15.2 billion.