America’s Liberty Media Finalizes $8 Billion Deal to Buy F1

F1 Grand Prix of Russia

Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg at the Russian Grand Prix | Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Huge changes are taking place behind the scenes in Formula One.

American media giant Liberty Media on Wednesday finalized a deal to wrest control of the commercial aspects of Formula One from the current consortium of owners, led by private equity firm CVC Partners. The deal values the sport at approximately $8 billion.

The commercial aspects, which includes lucrative advertising and television rights, is run by the Formula One Group, whose CEO and part owner is Bernie Ecclestone. The Formula One Group’s parent company is Delta Topco, which CVC Partners has a majority stake in.

The deal will see Liberty Media pay $1.1 billion in cash and offer 138 million in newly created Liberty Media shares to the owners of Delta Topco. It will also offer a $351 million debt instrument exchangeable into shares of Liberty Media, as well as take on $4.1 billion in Delta Topco’s current debt.

Liberty Media will initially hold an 18.7 percent stake in Delta Topco, with the remainder to be transferred possibly as early as the first quarter of 2017, should all conditions be met. The deal is still subject to approval by the FIA as well as government regulatory bodies.

Lotus F1 Car

Lotus F1 Car | Lotus Racing via Facebook

Teams to invest in Formula One

Upon completion, Liberty Media will add Delta Topco to its Liberty Media Group division, which will be renamed the Formula One Group. As part of the process, the publicly traded Liberty Media Group will see its ticker symbol change from LMC to FWON.

In an interesting twist, CVC Partners will own about 65 percent of this new Formula One Group, but it won’t have control of voting shares. CVC Partners will also have a representative on Liberty Media’s board of directors. The move is to enable CVC Partners to support Liberty Media in continuing to develop the full potential of the sport.

Chase Carey, who heads 21st Century Fox, will serve as Chairman of the new Formula One Group. Some readers will recall that the Rupert Murdoch-linked media giant in 2011 was in the headlines over a deal to take control of Formula One, though it never materialized. Meanwhile, Bernie Ecclestone will remain CEO.

The current teams will also be given the opportunity to participate in the investment in the new Formula One Group, 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 deal, Liberty Media has confirmed.

“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,” Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei said in a statement. “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.”

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