Liberty takeover offers a longer-term vision for F1

Thu Sep 8, 2016 1:40pm EDT
 
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By Alan Baldwin and Toby Sterling

LONDON (Reuters) - Liberty Media's takeover of Formula One promises a long-term strategy for the cash-rich sport with a sharper focus on new media markets and another attempt to expand in North America.

The deal, valued at $8 billion including debt, gives an American media and telecoms business effective control of a sport rather than the more customary situation of such companies paying up to buy rights to screen live events.

The deal was seen as positive for a sport featuring famous car brands such as Ferrari and Mercedes, as well as for buyer Liberty Media, owned by U.S. cable TV mogul John Malone.

However, changes will take time to feed through given that Formula One Chief Executive Bernie Ecclestone has negotiated lengthy TV contracts that will help to generate estimated revenues of $1.8 billion from 21 grand prix races this season.

Ecclestone, who transformed the sport's fortunes over the past four decades and turns 86 next month, will have a new chairman to work with in the shape of Chase Carey. Carey is executive vice-chairman of Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox and a director of Formula One rights holder Sky .

Formula One teams and sponsors have long chafed at the lack of a marketing and digital strategy for the sport, with Ecclestone focusing on generating piles of cash for shareholders through television rights and race hosting fees.

"I can't really think of a better buyer," said motorsport marketing executive Zak Brown, the chief executive of CSM Sport&Entertainment.

"If you had to write down a list of who you would want to buy Formula One, Liberty would be top of that list," added the American, whose company is part of Chime Communications and represents many of Formula One's leading sponsors.   Continued...

 
Formula One - F1 - Italian Grand Prix 2016 - Monza, Italy - 02/9/16 - Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel of Germany during the first free practice.  REUTERS/Max Rossi/File Photo