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F1 takeover would be 'suicidal' - Ecclestone

Formula One commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone has warned the teams that were they to be party to any takeover of the sport it would be the equivalent of committing 'suicide'.

The 80-year-old Briton, who reconstructed F1 into the modern global media sport that it has become, and many Formula One observers were shaking their heads at the prospect of seeing the sport sold to media tycoon Australian Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.

Less than 24 hours after the leading teams in the paddock had told a media briefing that they, through their official body, the Formula One Teams Association (FOTA), were keen to take a stake in any new ownership following a takeover, Ecclestone warned them such a move, notably to pay-per-view television, would "be suicide."

"Murdoch hasn't got anything really big to drive their TV audiences and Formula 1 would be good for that," he explained. "They have been trying to buy the TV rights from us for a long time, but we won't because they are not free-to-air television broadcasters. They are a subscription service. Very recently they wanted to do something in Germany, in the UK and in Italy, where they are, but we couldn't do it. Sky is doing an incredible job, but if you look at their audience they are nowhere. With these figures it would be almost impossible for teams to find sponsors. That would be suicidal."

Ecclestone added that News Corp should forget any plans to try and buy F1, because current majority shareholders CVC Capital Partners were not keen to sell.

"CVC has given the answer," he said. "They are the major shareholders and they do not want to sell. That is 100 per cent for sure."

Ecclestone added that he believed the teams' shareholders, who are due to meet with News Corp next week, should forget any idea of a rival bid for his sport.

"I hope these people come to their senses," he said. "The teams should be happy to have somebody like CVC not selling to the wrong people, trying to maintain a good level for them and supporting me so that I can go to work and earn some money for the teams."

Ecclestone's words were almost certain to stir up a reaction and possibly provoke a division of views among the teams with the old and the new instinctively drawn in different directions.

One man, of the old regime, who has always leaned towards supporting Ecclestone's fiefdom, is the Williams team founder Sir Frank Williams who last week oversaw his own modernising overhaul of his outfit after a poor start to the year.

Williams accepted the resignation of technical director Australian Sam Michael, who had been in charge of their worst start since entering the sport in 1977, and recruited former McLaren boffin Mike Coughlan. Chief aerodynamicist Jon Tomlinson also resigned and, along with Michael, will leave the team at the end of the season when Patrick Head, Williams' long-term partner, plans to retire - hopefully after overseeing a team revival.

The Williams turmoil, however, in which chief executive Adam Parr was also reported to have offered his resignation, signalled more than the demise of a once great team - it marked the march of time.

The great generation of Formula One team barons like Enzo Ferrari, Colin Chapman, Ken Tyrrell and Williams now belongs to another age and the corporate era of owners like Red Bull, Mercedes and Virgin - or mega-sponsors like Vodafone with big influence on the future - is being ushered in.

Where this new group takes the sport remains to be seen, but, like many others before them, Ecclestone and Williams know their days at the helm are numbered.

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