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“Liberty Media can grow Formula 1”
Formula 1’s leading lights have welcomed the sport’s sale to American firm Liberty Media Corporation, and believe the deal can help grow the sport.
Liberty Media announced last week that it would acquire the controlling stake in Formula 1 from CVC Capital Partners in a deal estimated to be worth £6 billion.
Liberty Media will buy 100 per cent of the shares of F1’s parent company Delta Topco, as well as a minority stake of 18.7 per cent. Once the deal is fully complete in the first quarter of 2017, Liberty Media will own the controlling stake of 35.5 per cent, with CVC retaining a 24.7 per cent share.
The sale marks the first time F1 has changed hands for a decade. Liberty has confirmed that Bernie Ecclestone will remain at the helm as chief executive for at least a further three years, and has appointed Chase Carey into the role of chairman of F1.
Liberty Media already boasts an impressive portfolio of investments, including stakes in the Atlanta Braves baseball club, US cable TV firms and music events company Live Nation. Carey is also the vice chairman of 21st Century Fox.
Key members of the F1 paddock have welcomed the deal. Force India’s deputy team principal Bob Fernley said: “I think it’s fair to say I’ve been mildly critical of CVC in the past, so therefore a new partner is good.
“In CVC we’ve had a corporation there that’s only been interested in extracting money. They’ve done what they’re supposed to do as a hedge fund, which is returned money to their shareholders, and they’ve sold out now and positioned themselves. Hopefully they’ve sold to a company that can create the growth in Formula 1.
“When you bring in a media group there is a obviously a vested interest there in developing the sport. It pays, then, on both sides. They will bring in a lot of experience from the American sporting franchise models and that can only be a good thing.”
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said prior to the official announcement of the deal that he believed F1 could learn from the way American companies grow public interest in sport via social media.
“I don’t think anybody would buy that stake, spend that money and say ‘We’re not changing everything – we’re doing it the American way’,” said Wolff.
“There are things we can learn from the American way, particularly the digital area, but there are also areas that are working here that are not working there. They are going to have a close look and analyse what needs to change or remain. There’s a reason these guys can afford to buy this. It’s good news that an American media buys into Formula 1.”
Liberty Media president and boss Greg Maffei added: “We are excited to become part of Formula 1. We think our long-term perspective and expertise with media and sports assets will allow us to be good stewards of Formula 1 and benefit fans, teams and our shareholders.
“We look forward to working closely with Chase Carey and Bernie Ecclestone to support the next phase of growth for this hugely popular global sport.”