Liberty Media confirms F1 takeover, Ecclestone remains CEO

2016 F1 season

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Liberty Media has confirmed it is in the process of taking over Formula One from CVC Capital Partners and other stakeholders.

The media company based in Colorado, USA, has purchased an initial stake of 18.7% in the sport prior to taking full control “subject to satisfaction of conditions”, according to a statement released on Wednesday. Liberty paid $746 million (£559m) in cash for the stake.

The Liberty Media Group will be renamed the Formula One Group once the acquisition is complete, and CVC and the other sellers will continue to own 65% of it. CVC will also have a representative on the Liberty Media Board of Directors.

The deal values Formula One at $8 billion (£6bn).

Bernie Ecclestone will remain CEO of Formula One
Bernie Ecclestone will remain as CEO of Formula One. Chase Carey, previously president of the 21st Century Fox media company, has been appointed as the sport’s new chairman. He takes over from Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, who will continue to serve the on Formula One board as a non-executive director.

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

“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.”

CVC co-chairman Donald Mackenzie said Carey’s “experience and knowledge of sport, media and entertainment is as good as it gets and we are very pleased to secure his services.”

“Bernie has been a wonderful CEO for us over the last ten years. There have been many successes and the occasional challenge but there has never been a dull moment and we have had a lot of fun.”

Liberty Media president and CEO Greg Maffei said the company bring a “long-term perspective and expertise with media and sports assets” which “will allow us to be good stewards of Formula One and benefit fans, teams and our shareholders.”

Formula One teams “will be given the opportunity to participate in the investment” into the sport, and some have already declared an interest in doing so, according to Liberty.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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35 comments on “Liberty Media confirms F1 takeover, Ecclestone remains CEO”

  1. I really hope this will mark the start of a brave new era for Formula 1.

    But given how things in F1 usually work, we’ll probably see this takeover last only a couple of races before the teams vote unanimously to change things back again…

    1. As long as Bernie is CEO, nothing is going to change. You’ll have to wait till 2020 to see if the sport can usher in a better era

  2. Liberty Media will be renamed Formula One Group and CVC will own 65% of them. Bernie will also remain as CEO. Feels like less of a change than I anticipated – more like a new layer within the pyramid upon which CVC still sits at the top.

    Sounds suspiciously like business as usual actually – they just have media expertise involved now to help generate the CVC money. I hope to be proved wrong!

    1. Source on the CVC owning 65% as I haven’t seen it reported elsewhere yet –

      1. Very interesting. Many thanks for that link.

    2. Spot on. More like a buy-in than a buy-out. I think there will be a big push to develop the digital side – that has been completely ignored for years – and then sell it on.

      Still, at least I should be able to stream F1 in the near future, in Hi-Def, which will be a treat.

    3. @snewers Yeah you’re onto something. I’ve done some research into Liberty, they’ve had assets and interests in media/sport networks but F1 is the first big sport asset they have invested so it would make sense from a business point of view to have Bernie and the firm who owns the sport for the best part of the decade to still be there to ease Liberty into a transition (if there is even one) before they can start having any kind of impact on F1, and Bernie and CVC move on at last.

      I can only hope what I said comes to pass because the sport is in dire need of change .

    4. Hmmm yes I read that bit with suspicion too. Looks like it’s mostly being ‘bought’ with paper which practically means a reverse takeover of Liberty media by CVC.

      Liberty media will own F1 and CVC will own Liberty media. Probably a good way to avoid some regulatory or tax impact I suspect but this will be business as usual but with a bit more media expertise on board.

      1. Looking into it further, the shares CVC will get don’t have voting rights. So they will have little control apart from the board member.

        Might be alright after all…

  3. Well, we got the worst of both worlds: An owner of unknown commitment, and we’re still stuck with Ecclestone as well. Color me unsurprised.

    1. Agreed. Non event so far.

  4. The Teams will be given the opportunity to participate in the investment in Formula One, and the detailed terms of that investment will be agreed in due course. Certain teams have already expressed an interest in investing after completion of the acquisition.

    That’s pretty interesting. I guess it means teams could steer the direction of Formula 1 on a much higher level than before. Anyway, it’s a bit disappointing they didn’t announce anything about their plans for Formula 1 apart from ‘growth’. I really hope they will point out how outdated FOM has been in so many ways, especially with social media and online content.

    1. Kind of scares me a bit that statement.

      Never works out well for the team/person given the “opportunity to invest”. Normally means that instead of real cash we’ll offer you shares (that may or may not have dubious value) in our company.

      Great way of controlling cash flow for the parent. Not at all good for the team/person.

    2. @andae23 I’m sure the likes of Force India and Sauber will be delighted at that.

  5. BBC now reporting it as well “US media firm Liberty Media is buying the racing business Formula 1 for $4.4bn (£3.3bn)”

    I hope this means more presence online and actually engagement with the fans…its 2016 and you have to watch dodgy quality videos on Youtube for 5 seconds before they take it down, good start to finally have a youtube channel but it is lacking for a product of this reach!

  6. Well I won’t judge anything yet. Let’s wait and see.

  7. I read the part of the article’s headline that confirmed the takeover, then saw the part that said Bernie was still the sport’s CEO and went “ARGHHHHH”

    This doesn’t fill me with much hope that things will change much at the top. The only possible change will be F1 taking steps in introducing social media and online services, since Liberty is a media firm

  8. Does this mean uk F1 coverage will move to VM?

    1. Sky has a contract until 2024 from memory, and I expect it would be hard to break. After then, I wouldn’t be sure, the media landscape in 8 years could be completely different.
      It will be interesting to see what is done in the US with the broadcast. Doesn’t Liberty own some TV network?

      1. @Ambroserpm Yeah they do and I believe they used to own a few of the big US TV networks like Sportsnet and DirecTV before selling stakes in them

  9. Yes (@come-on-kubica)
    7th September 2016, 23:52

    Lol, who in the world thinks this sport is worth £6bn. This all seems shady. Don’t anything will change other than the sport carrying on it’s gradual decline.

  10. Instead of floating F1, they’ve done a kind of reverse-takeover.
    “Upon completion of the acquisition, the Liberty Media Group will be renamed the Formula One Group and the ticker symbols for the Series A, Series B and Series C Liberty Media Group tracking stocks will be changed from LMC (A/B/K), respectively, to FWON (A/B/K), respectively. Formula One will remain based in London. “

  11. Formula One teams “will be given the opportunity to participate in the investment” into the sport, and some have already declared an interest in doing so, according to Liberty.

    Doesn’t this sound a bit dodgy to anyone? The larger teams buying a stake, having influence over rules, airtime etc. I guess its not much different to how things are now with the difficulties smaller teams face. Would certainly raise questions if for example arsenal owned a percentage of the premier league, dodgy penalties being awarded, red cards overturned and an unfair proportion of their games televised….

  12. CVC has made a series of very bad investments, F1 is their only cashcow, by this method they can keep hold of it for longer than the original investestment plan stated. What other business could they replace it with?

    1. LovelyLovelyLuffield
      8th September 2016, 5:05

      The business of killing dissidents, maybe. Money can be made off the lives of F1’s fans.

  13. If it doesn’t work out, we csn always go back to chariot racing.

    1. Ha @ oliver

  14. With the initial stake of around 18.7% and CVC’s current stake at 65% coupled with around 15% stake of Bernie, I wonder how much of an impact the takeover will have in the short to medium term. Details of a majority stake by Liberty Media Group (LMG) is still unknown and with CVC’s “representation” on LMG’s Board raises a neutral outlook for me in the current scenario.

    Hoping for the best.

  15. Also, with the long term outlook, currently Formula 1 sits on a debt-equity ratio of ~0.93 times which as per the deal, LMG would have taken it onboard. In the longer term, with the debt repayment in mind, a media group like LMG could try and find different means of revenue generation. As a result, I assume that free-to-air concept will be completely eliminated within a few years and entry into new markets is a likely possibility.

    LMG has said that Europe will remain the sport’s traditional base but I see that to be highly unlikely considering the economic situation in Europe with circuits failing to afford race fees with lack of government support.

    I believe in the longer term, one of LMG’s strategy would definitely make Formula 1 more accessible to people as popularity growth will result in increased sponsorship and hence more revenues.

  16. Great to see some young blood in the sport with the fresh ideas and dynamism that a 75 year old brings.

  17. For those that don’t know, Liberty Media owns the Atlanta Braves in American Major League baseball. Look what they’ve done to that organization.

  18. “Liberty Media Group will be renamed the Formula One Group once the acquisition is complete”

    Formula One Group = FOG!

    You’d think that a big media conglomerate would think of these things…;-)

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