The buildup to Sunday's season-opening F1 Australian Grand Prix “was tinged with anger, jealousy and intrigue after an unsigned version of the new Concorde Agreement...was leaked to Sky News,” and it appears to "reveal that Formula One’s owner, private equity firm CVC Capital Partners, is preparing to sell part of its shareholding in the sport for the first time since its 2005 takeover,” according to Tom Cary of the London TELEGRAPH. The move would be “part of a shake-up of Formula One’s commercial structure that could hand Ferrari a direct stake in the sport.” Red Bull reportedly also “stand to make a huge sum from the new financial framework,” with both Red Bull and Ferrari “allowed to appoint a director to the board of the sport’s holding company.” Some felt the document was leaked “in an attempt to scupper the deal, showing Ferrari and Red Bull in a bad light as money-driven and out for themselves.” The current Concorde Agreement expires at the end of this season. Any agreement to sell part of CVC’s interest would likely value F1 at “well over $10 billion” (London TELEGRAPH, 3/19). Cary yesterday cited a Sky News report that F1 Management Chair Bernie Ecclestone is “preparing a $10 billion flotation of Formula One, with Ferrari to be offered a special shareholding in a new Concorde Agreement.” Sky News reported that the public offering “will be for part of current owners CVC Capital Partners’ stake.” Ferrari will have “a special position as the oldest team in the sport, and there’s extra cash for Red Bull.” Cary wrote the “special deal for Ferrari and Red Bull makes sense given their decision to quit the Formula One Teams Association in December, ostensibly over a disagreement over cost-cutting" (TELEGRAPH.co.uk, 3/18). The GUARDIAN reported Ferrari “would have a representative on the board in Luca di Montezemolo, the team's president.” One would “also be allotted” to Red Bull Founder Dietrich Mateschitz, a “friend of Ecclestone.” But there would be “no seats for McLaren, one of the sport's most successful teams, or Mercedes which has invested huge amounts in F1” (GUARDIAN, 3/19).
Leagues and Governing Bodies
The LPGA “seems to have found its footing again,” as its first three tournaments this year in Asia and Australia “were all thrillers,” according to John Paul Newport of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Five new tournaments were added for the ‘12 season “against one loss, with four of the five newcomers in North America.” With young players such as Lexi Thompson, Yani Tseng and Jessica Korda, “the future seems secure, if not yet brimming with dollars and network-television exposure.” Golfer Christina Kim said, "Everyone is very excited. It's been a roller-coaster ride, but we're past the dark chasm." Newport wrote the “most striking difference between the LPGA Tour now and 10 years ago is the depth of talent,” which now “comes from everywhere.” LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan said, "We are and want to be a global tour, because golf is a global game." Asian television “funnels more income to the tour than U.S. television does.” Whan: "But we don't want to become so global that we wake up one morning and realize we don't have a home." He “considers the mix of events this year, with 64% in North America (including two in Canada and one in Mexico) and 36% abroad, to be about right.” For now the “two big items on Whan's wish list are more tournaments -- 33, plus or minus two, would be ideal, he said, up from 28 this year -- and more coverage on the networks, so that casual fans can sample the LPGA and start watching it on Golf Channel.” This year only the U.S. Women's Open is on a major network, but Whan said that he “hopes that NBC, Golf Channel's corporate sibling, will air four or five tournaments in 2013” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 3/17).
MAKING A NAME: In Phoenix, Paola Boivin writes Tseng is “a force of nature who is doing something phenomenal for the LPGA: She is bringing attention to the tour for all the right reasons.” Tseng, the top-ranked player in the world, yesterday won the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup. However, Boivin notes the Taiwanese native will “have to work harder for attention in this country.” Boivin: “It's a reality. We like our sports stars homegrown.” Although her popularity has not come to America, Tseng is “a superstar in Taiwan.” When she played an event there last year, she “required the same security detail that Lady Gaga used over there” (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 3/19).
WISHING WELL: GOLF.com's weekly roundtable discussed the LPGA’s wish list this season and SI’s Alan Shipnuck said his list would be “Lexi wins the Grand Slam.” SI Senior Editor Mark Godich: “A Lexi-Yani Tseng rivalry.” SI Senior Writer Damon Hack: “A Lexi-Michelle Wie rivalry.” SI Golf Group Managing Editor Jim Herre: “A 10-win season by Michelle Wie.” GOLF.com’s Deputy Editor David Dusek: “Michelle Wie wins the Grand Slam.” SI Senior Writer Gary Van Sickle: “ESPN says, ‘Hey, we'd like to televise all of your tournaments on the weekend.’" SI Senior Writer Michael Bamberger: “Lexi and Yani duking it out.” SI Golf+ writer Stephanie Wei: “Michelle Wie and Lexi split the majors” (GOLF.com, 3/18).