Grand Prix Business Diary: Australia

The Australian Grand Prix weekend saw potentially significant changes to the structure of Formula One's ownership, a debut for Sky Sports and a predictably huge crowd.

Bernie Ecclestone, as is now traditional, wasn't at the Australian Grand Prix but the future of the sport he presides over still dominated the off-track discussion, as the teams digested a report posted on the Sky News website on the night before the race. 

Sky's City editor Mark Kleinman reported that Ferrari and Red Bull may end up with an ownership stake in the sport as part of the new Concorde Agreement, the document binding the teams to the sport and which determines what proportion of Formula One's revenues the teams receive.

Sky News has now suggested Mateschitz and di Montezemolo could be made directors of Formula One's parent company


Ferrari and Red Bull Racing both left the Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA), the body set up by the teams to work on the future of the sport collectively, at the end of last year, a move interpreted by most as a precursor to striking their own individual deals with the Formula One Group.

Kleinman, the journalist who broke the story that News Corp were interested in acquiring Formula One last year, has now suggested that Red Bull's Dietrich Mateschitz and Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo would be made directors of Formula One's parent company. On account of its history and perceived importance to Formula One,
Ferrari has traditionally always received an extra financial bonus in Concorde Agreements, but that Red Bull – world champions for the past two seasons but only active in the sport since 2005 – are also set to receive a special deal would be a major surprise and, in all liklehood, something of an affront to the other teams.
Kleinman also reported that Goldman Sachs had been asked by CVC Capital Partners, the investment firm which owns the majority of Formula One, to examine a share placement as a precursor to a public offering and that there is a proposal on the table for customer cars to be offered to new teams. However, in a deliciously intriguing twist, Kleinman's report quickly disappeared from the Sky News website – although his Twitter page continues to carry the details of the piece. This one will assuredly run and run all year long.
Strength in numbers
Melbourne marked a new era in British television coverage of Formula One, with Sky Sports taking over exclusive live rights to the whole season and the BBC, which has broadcast Formula One in the UK, reduced to covering 10 races per season live and the other 10 as delayed highlights packages on free-to-air TV.
Sky had 81 people in Melbourne – more, remarkably, than the HRT team
Sky, which has launched a stand-alone channel to broadcast Formula One, certainly made an impression on the Formula One paddock for its first live broadcast of a sport it has coveted for years: according to those in the know, Sky Sports had 81 people in Melbourne for its blanket coverage of the Grand Prix – more, remarkably, than the HRT team brought to Australia.
Still a great place for the race
No other Grand Prix has a support race programme and entertainment package around the Formula One action that can match what the Australian Grand Prix Corporation provides at Albert Park. And although the temporary nature of the circuit means that the Australian Grand Prix traditionally costs far more than it makes, local organisers were rewarded with the highest four-day attendance since 2005. Some 114,900 people watched the Grand Prix on Sunday, part of 313,700 who entered Albert Park at some point during the weekend.
“We will look at the Grand Prix as a value for money proposition”
“We have seen today increased crowd numbers, increased sales, increased numbers of sponsors and all looks well for a fantastic Grand Prix,” Victoria premier Ted Bailleu told the Herald Sun newspaper in Melbourne. “The grand prix has been good for Melbourne, good for Victoria and good for our major events calendar. Today demonstrates that again.
“What we have said stands…that we will look at the Grand Prix as a value for money proposition and we have a further three Grands Prix on the contract after this one and that is the way that we will consider it.”
Chaleo Yoovidhya
Although Dietrich Mateschitz is rightly credited as having had the marketing nous to turn Red Bull into the global sports phenomenon it is today, he only owns 51 per cent of the energy drinks company. The remainder was owned by Chaleo Yoovidhya, a Thai billionaire, who died on Saturday in Bangkok aged 89.
It was Yoovidhya who developed the original sugar and caffience-laced concoction which ultimately became Red Bull. Mateschitz, so the story goes, subsequently discovered it as a cure for jet-lag following a flight from Thailand in 1984, after which he went into partnership with Yoovidhya. The rest, as they say, is glorious history. 

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