Formula One set to change owners
A NEW chapter dawns for Formula One with American media mogul John Malone poised to become the glittering but flawed sporting jewel’s new custodian.
The Malone-backed Liberty Media has emerged in pole position to buy F1 after interest from broadcaster Sky, Paris Saint-Germain’s owner Qatar Sports Investments and Stephen Ross, owner of MLS side the Miami Dolphins, waned.
The high-octane sport’s octogenarian ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone told German magazine Auto Motor und Sport at last weekend’s Italian Grand Prix that a deal was imminent, possibly as early as today.
The September 5 edition of British newspaper Financial Times suggested talks between Liberty Media and current 35 percent majority stake-owners CVC Partners were “at an advanced stage”.
The 75-year-old Malone’s media empire is expected to take an initial 10-15pc stake valued at US$1.3 billion-$2.7 billion, en route to becoming majority owners in a deal valuing F1 at $8-$9 billion.
The Financial Times quoting “people briefed in the talks”, say that Chase Carey, executive vice-chair of Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox, would be appointed F1’s new chair.
Liberty Media already has interest in several sports and entertainment businesses, including the Atlanta Braves Major League baseball team.
If it goes ahead this deal would end years of rumour and speculation over F1’s future.
Ecclestone, who owns 5.3pc and with his Bambino Trust a further 8.3pc, is the mastermind behind F1’s evolution over the past 40 years into a billion-dollar sporting business.
Ecclestone, who forked up $100 million to the German authorities to end a high-profile bribery trial in 2014, held talks with CVC co-chair Donald Mackenzie at Monza, the BBC reported.
With the sport’s attraction to television audiences undermined by the recent domination of first Red Bull and now Mercedes, Liberty’s arrival was welcomed by key personalities in the pits.
Red Bull’s Christian Horner told The Guardian, “It could be a really exciting deal for Formula One if it happens ... but for a new group to come in without [Ecclestone] being there would be very difficult, so I’d assume he’ll be around for some time.”
Analysts hope that a specialist media empire such as Liberty can reignite interest in a sport which according to official figures has seen its global viewing audience shed 200 million viewers since 2008. –
After shedding 200 million TV viewers in the past eight years, Formula One hopes to make a comeback under new ownership.