Liberty Media buys Formula One but Ecclestone remains in place

Liberty Media announced late Wednesday it has agreed to acquire Formula One from a consortium of sellers but current chief executive Bernie Ecclestone is to remain in post.

The 85-year-old Briton Ecclestone has been involved in the sport for decades and overseen its development into a multi-billion dollar business.

Liberty Media's purchase from the consortium, led by CVC Capital Partners, is a minority stake for 4.4 billion dollars with a view to a full takeover if approved by regulators.

But while Ecclestone has largely been successful in guiding the enterprise, questions have risen over his continual refusal to embrace modern marketing techniques such as through social media.

Chase Carey, vice chairman of 21st Century Fox, will take up the role of chairman of Formula One, and could eventually erode some of Ecclestone's power.

"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," Carey said.

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

Ecclestone's strategy of demanding large fees to host races brought CVC considerable profit but led to fewer races being held in traditional European venues.

He was quoted briefly in the Liberty Media statement as saying he is looking forward to working with them but the purchase could be the beginning of the end of his 40-year reign.

Due to the complex nature of the rewards for performance, many teams struggle month to month or year to year while only a few enjoy financial security.

CVC has previously been criticized for prioritizing its own short-term gains over reinvesting in the sport, particularly as television audiences have declined and younger fans have drifted away.

Fans will also be anxious to see if rule changes are proposed to encourage more racing on track and to end the recent dominance of Mercedes, who have blown away the opposition since the introduction of the latest hybrid engines in 2014.

Liberty Media, a US corporation with stakes in several sports and entertainment businesses, including the Atlanta Braves Major League Baseball club and the satellite radio provider SiriusXM, has indicated it will encourage teams to buy a stake in the sport.

Greg Maffei, president and chief executive of the firm, said the corporation is excited to become part of Formula One.

"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," he said in a statement.

The total transaction is worth 8 billion dollars, which includes 4.1 billion dollars worth of existing Formula One debt.

After completion of the acquisition, Liberty Media will own Formula One, and it will be renamed the Formula One Group.

Last update: Thu, 08/09/2016 - 10:41
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