Wheel Deal: Liberty Media Fuels $4B Move To Acquire Formula One Racing Circuit
Thursday, September 8, 2016 at 11:05AM
NYSportsJournalism.com in Auto Racing, Auto Racing, Formula 1, Liberty Media, financial, sports marketing

By Barry Janoff

September 8, 2016: Following in the footsteps of UFC's $4 billion acquisition by WME|IMG, Liberty Media Corp., whose global investments include the Atlanta Braves, Live Nation and SiriusXM, said it has acquired Formula One, the venerable international racing circuit.

Financial terms were not revealed, but the price was put at $4.4 billion in cash, stock and convertible debt by industry analysts and investors.

Liberty Media, under the auspices of chairman John Malone, said its initial investment includes an 18.7% minority stake in Formula 1, with 100% sale subject to satisfaction of regulatory conditions.

Formula 1 has been owned by private equity firm CVC Capital.

The international racing circuit's teams include Mercedes, with drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg; Red Bull, led by drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen; Ferrari, McLaren, Haas F1 and Renault.

Formula 1 sponsors include Heineken, financial firm UBS, Rolex, Pirelli, Puma and Tata Communications.

Formula 1 said more than 200 companies are involved with its races.

More than 450 million people viewed TV coverage of F1 last year, with each race broadcast live to more than 200 countries. In addition, Formula 1 said that 3.5 million people attend its races annually.

Global spending on motorsports' sanctioning bodies, teams and tracks is expected to total a record $5.58 billion in 2016, a 2.8% increase from 2015 and a rise of more than $2 billion since 2011, according to research, sponsorship and consulting firm IEG, Chicago.

However, the total of F1 deals has dropped, according to industry analysts and IEG.

According to IEG, "Pressured by a decline in spending in Formula One, the increase (on overall motorsports spend) lags IEG’s projected 4.7% increase in overall global sponsorship spending. Without F1, spending is expected to keep pace with the overall sponsorship industry."

Still, that has not deterred global brands from opting in with the racing circuit,

"Formula One is bigger than a race. It is a global event," Gianluca Di Tondo, senior director global Heineken brand, said when the company signed a global deal with the circuit in June. "F1 represents a unique opportunity for Heineken to engage with existing and potential consumers in important growth markets."

Chase Carey, former vice-chairman for 21st Century Fox, was named new chairman for Formula One, succeeding Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, who will remain on Formula 1’s board as a non-executive director.

Bernie Ecclestone will remain Formula 1’s CEO.

The current season runs through November. The 2017 season is scheduled to begin in March with the Australian Grand Prix. Races are also scheduled to be held in China, Russia, Spain, Monaco, Germany, Italy, Britain and Canada.

Formula 1, which began competing in 1950, is the highest class of single-seat auto racing that is sanctioned by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile.

"I see great opportunity to help Formula One continue to develop and prosper for the benefit of the sport, fans, teams and investors alike."

“We are excited to become part of Formula One," Greg Maffei, president and CEO for Liberty Media, said in a statement. "We think our long-term perspective and expertise with media and sports assets will allow us to be good stewards of Formula One 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," said Maffei.

According to Carey, “I am thrilled to take up the role of chairman for Formula One and have the opportunity to work alongside Bernie Ecclestone, CVC, and the Liberty Media team.

"I greatly admire Formula One as a unique global sports entertainment franchise attracting hundreds of millions of fans each season from all around the world. I see great opportunity to help Formula One continue to develop and prosper for the benefit of the sport, fans, teams and investors alike," said Carey.

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