LONDON, (Reuters) – The owner of the Miami Dolphins football team is joining forces with Qatar to buy a controlling stake in Formula One in a deal that could be worth up to $8 billion and inject new leadership into a sport facing falling TV audiences and ticket sales.
Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is looking to acquire a 35.5 percent stake from private equity fund CVC Capital Partners Ltd through his investment vehicle RSE, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters on Tuesday, adding that a deal could be done within six weeks.
Formula One impresario Bernie Ecclestone, who has ruled over the sport for four decades, would stay on to lead the racing side of the business, the source said.
The move comes as Formula One racing grapples with falling viewing figures, controversial race rules and soaring costs, all of which have led to some teams struggling for sponsorship.
The 84-year-old Ecclestone, a former second-hand car salesman and team owner, has been a controversial figure and last year agreed to pay a German court $100 million to settle a bribery case.
CVC has twice tried to float Formula One, most recently in 2013, but the plans stalled and the fund instead sold stakes to U.S. investment groups BlackRock and Waddell & Reed, along with Norway’s Norges Bank.
It sold down its holding from 63 percent in 2012 in deals that at the time gave the business an enterprise value, which includes debt and equity, of $9.1 billion.
Ross has the backing of Qatar, which has been actively investing its wealth abroad, meaning that financing is unlikely to be a problem, the source said.
Ross’ experience running sports in the United States could help Formula One build its presence there. Currently it only has one U.S. race in the calendar, in Austin, Texas.