Whereas we used to say that the Chinese were buying everything, it appears that the Saudis are now following suit. According to well-informed sources cited by the news agency Bloomberg, Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund is considering adding the staging of the famous Formula 1 (F1) speedway races to its portfolio.
In recent years, the country has acquired Newcastle United of the English Premier League.
Such an acquisition would be added to the already expanding portfolio, which includes stakes in international sports and the sporting world, among other things. Meanwhile, a potential deal was abandoned last year in its early stages because the event's owner, Liberty Media, was unwilling to sell the franchise rights to the Saudi Arabian State Investment Fund. According to the sources, the fund valued those rights at well over $20 billion, including debt. However, they added that they are still serious about this asset and would be a serious bidder if Liberty Media changes its mind and decides to sell.
Saudi Arabia has made significant investments in sports as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman opens the door to more Western-style entertainment. In recent years, it has even acquired the English Premier League team Newcastle United and has hosted major boxing, golf, and Formula 1 competitions. Critics have labeled the entire effort "sports laundering" or an attempt to divert attention away from the country's human rights record. F1 would undoubtedly be an iconic takeover. Since being acquired by billionaire John Malone's Liberty Media for $4.4 billion in 2017, the sport has grown in popularity.
Liberty Media has attempted to cultivate a new generation of fans by expanding F1's reach into Southeast Asia and the United States, as well as launching an online consumer streaming service with it. After all, the Middle East was another priority for F1's owners. In the 2023 season, the region will host four races, with the first two taking place in March in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. The world's largest oil producer, Saudi Aramco, has finally agreed to sponsor Formula One in 2020.