Formula One and Liberty Media are suing two businessmen who claim that they were granted promotional rights for a future Las Vegas Grand Prix by former F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg.
In its simplest terms, this lawsuit involves two men: businessman Farid Shidfar and former Las Vegas Assemblyman Chad Christensen. These men allege that they struck a deal with Ecclestone; in 2013, Shidfar says he received a letter from Ecclestone promising Shidfar would be the promoter of the event. Shidfar then recruited Christensen to develop P2M Motorsports, a limited liability company designed specifically to promote the race, in January of 2014.
Liberty Media, however, alleges that this is where the buck stopped. It claims that no formal contract was ever signed, which means P2M Motorsports was never the legal, guaranteed promoter of the race.
This is where things get messy. Liberty Media first filed a suit against P2M Motorsports in March of 2021 that involved the following:
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority [LVCVA] entered the picture when P2M approached it and R&R Partners, the LVCVA’s contracted marketing and advertising consultant, in March 2017 and convinced them to sign nondisclosure agreements forbidding the LVCVA to communicate with anyone but P2M to establish a race.
Despite that, Formula One reached out to the LVCVA with its views.
“P2M’s threats (from the nondisclosure agreements) were legally and factually empty,” the lawsuit says. “As a direct result of P2M’s wrongful interference, Formula One has been unable to contract with LVCVA or R&R to bring a race to the Strip.”
Basically, Liberty Media was asking that P2M provide it “general, compensatory, punitive, and exemplary damages” for its claims that it deserved a race. Further:
Liberty lawyers allege in the complaint that P2M Motorsports made “extortionate demands” for millions of dollars from Formula One and interfered with the sport’s dealings with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and R & R Partners, the LVCVA’s longtime marketing firm.
“As a direct result of P2M’s intentional interference,” the lawsuit stated in March 2021, “Formula One’s prospective contractual relationships with LVCVA, R & R, and other third parties have been thwarted, causing at a minimum delay, and potentially cancellation, of plans for a Las Vegas Formula One race, and causing Formula One to incur substantial damages in an amount to be proven at trial.”
As you can probably tell from the timeline here, Liberty obviously went ahead with race plans, and we’re set to have a November 2023 race.
That didn’t sit well with Shidfar. P2M then filed a counter-suit against Liberty:
The counterclaim includes references to letters of support from former Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval. The ex-governor is quoted in a February 2011 letter, saying his office “enthusiastically” endorsed and supported the work of Shidfar and Christensen.
Cristalli also included a Jan. 17, 2018 letter in the counterclaim from then-Clark County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak backing the effort. Later that year, Sisolak was elected governor.
Both parties in this case have a vested interest in the Las Vegas Grand Prix, and despite Las Vegas Review-Journal writer Jeff German’s exceptional reporting thus far, there’s likely plenty of machinations going on behind the scenes that no one is aware of and that we’ll learn more about as things unfolds.
F1’s return to Las Vegas, of course, wouldn’t be complete without a little legal drama. We recently reviewed Caesars Palace Grand Prix: Las Vegas, Organized Crime, and the Pinnacle of Motorsport by Randall Cannon, which details the various chaos that plagued F1 in the buildup, running, and denouement of F1’s previous races in Vegas. It’s worth a read if you haven’t given it a shot yet. It’ll easily help you gain some context about this latest legal chaos.