Liberty Media agrees $8bn deal to buy Formula One

Bernie Ecclestone will remain as chief executive of Formula One and Chase Carey is set to become chairman after a $8bn buy-out by the US company Liberty Media

The sale of Formula One to Liberty Media has been agreed in a takeover which values the sport at $8bn.

John Malone, head of the entertainment and communications group, has purchased a controlling interest in the sport from CVC Capital.

Chase Carey, the executive vice-president of 21st Century Fox, has been appointed chairman of the Formula One Group, while Bernie Ecclestone, currently the chief executive, will remain in his position.

Liberty has paid $4.4bn for Formula One, initially for a 18.7% stake before acquiring the remainder on completion of the deal in 2017. CVC will remain shareholders but the voting shares that control the group will pass to Liberty. CVC has owned the sport since 2006, making a huge return on its initial investment of $2bn.

The transaction price represents an enterprise value for Formula One of $8bn and an equity value of $4.4bn, Liberty Media confirmed in a statement.

The income from the sale is likely to make F1 the most profitable deal in the investment houses history. Much is expected of the new owners, with considerable emphasis on pushing the sport into new media and targeting new audiences.

The US-based company has clear intent not only to take advantage of Formula Ones ability to buck downward trends in financial returns but will also use its leverage as a media company to promote the sport and is likely to develop a new business model to back it.

Greg Maffei, the president and chief executive officer of Liberty Media, said: 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 are excited to become part of Formula One.

The statement continued: After completion of the acquisition Liberty Media will own Formula One and it will be attributed to the Liberty Media Group which will be renamed the Formula One Group.

Chase Carey will serve as the new chairman of Formula One, succeeding Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, who will remain on Formula Ones board as a non-executive director. Bernie Ecclestone will remain Formula Ones CEO.

The new owners have also included the option for allowing the F1 teams to participate in the new investment in the sport and said they will discuss the idea further with several that have expressed interest already.

Carey said he was looking forward to the opportunity to help Formula One continue to develop and prosper for the benefit of the sport, fans, teams and investors alike.

In the short term, however, Ecclestone, who has run Formula One as a fiefdom for 40 years, will be on hand to see through the takeover, having already said he was expecting to stay on for a further three years. In a statement he said: I would like to welcome Liberty Media and Chase Carey to Formula One and I look forward to working with them.

Ecclestone, who is now 85 years old, has largely handled the key tenets of F1s financial success, which hinges on TV deals and the sale of rights to host races, himself. He likes to do business face to face and make deals that are both personal and private.

The sale of British broadcasting rights for the sport to Sky in 2011 was done and dusted before a bemused paddock had any idea of the deal.

It has been his negotiation of an escalator clause in new race contracts that has ensured the sports profits have beaten both inflation and recession in recent years. Having him on board to ensure the lucrative revenue stream that made Libertys purchase so attractive in the first place is an unsurprising move for the new owners.

How long they will stick with F1s old guard in the new era remains to be seen.

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