London - A British MEP has called on the European Commission to investigate the takeover of Formula 1, claiming it was "extremely likely" that the $8 billion (R107bn) sale broke EU law.
Anneliese Dodds, MEP for South East England, claims there was a conflict of interest by the sport’s regulator the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) and has written to competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager to urge a probe.
The FIA’s approval was needed for the takeover by US group Liberty Media, but the FIA was also a shareholder in F1 and stood to make an $80 million (R1.07bn) profit. Dodds claims this was in breach of an FIA agreement with the EU to avoid conflicts of interest.
"The sale of F1 appears to have returned its regulatory body a $79.5 million profit on a $458 000 (R6.1m) investment in less than four years," Dodds told The Mail on Sunday. "Given that this return was only payable if F1 was sold to a new owner - and that they were the body that had to approve any sale - it looks extremely likely that the FIA has broken an agreement struck with the European Commission in 2001 regarding commercial conflict of interest."
The FIA bought a one percent stake in F1’s parent company Delta Topco for $458 000 in July 2013. Two months later Liberty made its first approach to buy the sports business. The deal valued the FIA’s stake at $80 million.
The FIA faced an EC investigation in 2001 after which it sold off all of its interest in the sport and agreed to act purely as a regulator with no commercial conflicts of interest. Liberty completed its purchase of Delta Topco last month from private equity firm CVC.
The FIA denied there was a conflict of interest. It said: "The FIA is a not for profit organisation with the regulation of motor sports as our sole concern."
Mail On Sunday