F1’s liberation begins under Carey’s brawn
BERLIN: Formula One is entering a new era with the “one-man show” of former chief Bernie Ecclestone ended by new owners Liberty Media after it completed its takeover of the sport this week.
“I think the reality is that Bernie has really ran the business as a one-man show,” new F1 chief executive Chase Carey told SkySports yesterday. “That’s not a criticism, it’s just the reality.”
One of Carey’s first actions was to appoint former Mercedes team chief Ross Brawn as motor sports managing director, while Sean Bratches has been named managing director of commercial operations.
The moves were confirmed late on Monday after Liberty completed the $8 billion (about R106bn) deal for the elite motorsport.
Carey stressed his respect for the work Ecclestone had done in 40 years of leading F1 but was equally clear that a new order was needed.
“Bernie deserves enormous credit for the business that has been built over the last number of decades and realistically it just got sold for $8 billion, so the ultimate proof in the value he created is there for all to see,” Chase said.
The sporting aspect of F1, after Ecclestone was ousted to the position of chairman emeritus, lies in the hands of Brawn, who was involved in all seven of Michael Schumacher’s world titles with Benetton and Ferrari before going on to win the team title with his own Brawn team in 2009.
After selling the team to Mercedes in 2010, Brawn remained as principal until 2013 before announcing his retirement a year later.
“I am delighted to welcome Ross back to Formula 1,” Carey said in a statement. “In his 40 years in the sport, he’s brought his magic touch to every team with which he has worked, has almost unparalleled technical knowledge, experience and relationships, and I have already benefited greatly from his advice and expertise.”
Brawn has been consulting for Liberty in recent months and his widely expected return has now been formalised.
“It’s fantastic to be returning to the world of Formula 1,” Brawn said. “I’ve enjoyed consulting with Liberty Media these last few months and I’m looking forward to working with Chase, Sean and the rest of the Formula 1 team to help the evolution of the sport.
“We have an almost unprecedented opportunity to work together with the teams and promoters for a better F1 for them and, most importantly, for the fans.”
Bratches, in contrast, is new to Formula One but has played an influential role in growing American broadcaster ESPN, especially its online aspect – a market widely ignored by Ecclestone.
“Sean was a driving force in building ESPN into one of the world’s leading sports franchises,” Chase said. “His expertise and experience in sales, marketing, digital media and distribution will be invaluable as we grow Formula 1.”
When he was asked for the first time if he wanted to be the new power-broker in Formula One, Carey said he needed time to think: “10 seconds, and then I said ‘yes’.
“What I bring is a long career in the media business, in which sport was a big part,” said Carey, a Harvard graduate and former president of 21st Century Fox.
Carey’s advantage over his predecessor Ecclestone, a former used-car salesman who took over F1 after a brief spell as a driver, is that he knows the business from the other side – as a consumer and a maker of TV.
Ecclestone spent 40 years leading the sport and turned F1 into the modern business it is today. But Liberty wasted no time in appointing their own man for the future.
Reportedly the closest confidante of media mogul Rupert Murdoch outside his family, Carey, born in 1954, rose to prominence through the establishment of Fox TV throughout the 1980s.
He is also considered the brains behind the group’s pay-content strategy, according to Germany’s Federal Centre for Political Education. – DPA