Liberty Media On The Cusp Of Buying Formula One For $8 Billion
Other buyers are still in the running, but the U.S.-based media giant appears to be on the inside trackby Kirby Garlitos, on
Formula 1 looks set to be sold to a U.S. media company in an $8.4 billion (£6.3 billion) deal – and the move could herald the departure of long-standing F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone.
Formula One could find itself with a new owner very soon after multiple reports have declared a pending sale by controlling firm and private equity group CVC Capital Partners to U.S.-based media empire Liberty Media Corporation for an amount believed to be in the neighborhood of $8.5 billion.
The deal has yet to be finalized and other parties looking to make a play in acquiring the racing series are still in the hunt. That said, there’s growing momentum that CVC is on the inside line in the long-rumored acquisition of Formula One. The full parameters of the sale, according to The Financial Times, comes with an initial deal revolving around Liberty Media acquiring 10 to 15 percent of Formula One with an agreement in place to take full control of the series in the future. CVC Capital currently has a 35 percent stake in Delta Topco, the company that owns the Formula One Group.
Other parties are also in the running and there have been suggestions that CVC is in separate negotiations with some of them, including investment company RSE Ventures, which owns the Miami Dolphins. Likewise, a Qatari consortium is also in the mix, as is another private equity firm whose identity has yet to be revealed.
In the event a sale to Liberty Media pushes through, there are expectations that a change in leadership will follow. Sky Sports reported that current F1 chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe will be replaced in his role by media executive Chase Carey with Brabeck-Letmathe staying on the board as a non-executive director. Then there’s the status of Bernie Ecclestone, the sport’s face for the better part of four decades and himself a minority owner in Formula One. No specific details have been revealed regarding Ecclestone’s fate if a sale is made, but senior F1 figures believe that he’ll remain on board in some capacity even if the sale pushes through.
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What happens to Formula One now?
There are a number of ways to look at this and given the current state of Formula One both on and off the tracks. I can’t help but be excited about what lies ahead for the sport if the sale to Liberty Media pushes through.
On the track, I don’t expect too many changes in the short-term, but over time, there could be some modifications to make the races more exciting for the fans. I know that it’s going to largely depend on the teams but if the new owners are serious about giving fans the best product possible, it’s going to be open to a lot of new ideas that could make that happen. Whether that includes new rules and guidelines for the teams and their drivers is still unclear, but I think all parties will be much more open to the possibilities.
Off the track, this sale could be a big deal for one reason. Liberty Media is a U.S.-based company that has a better grasp of the pulse of American sports fans than the current owners. I think this sale opens up the real possibility of Formula One becoming more popular in the U.S., the lone major market that the sport has failed to break into. I don’t know how Liberty Media plans to accomplish that, although I do know that as a media and entertainment giant, it’s going to have some ideas in place on how to get there.
In any event, I’m looking forward to seeing new owners for Formula One. The sport, for better or worse, has been ironically stuck in the mud over the past few years, despite its status as the top level of motorsports racing. Maybe a fresh voice is what it needs to get things back in gear. I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing what those new voices have to offer.