Bernie Ecclestone could stand down from the helm of motorsport's top series following an $8.4 billion deal with Liberty Media Corporation
7 September 2016

Formula 1's governing body the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) has welcomed the sale of the sport to American media company Liberty Media Corporation.

The deal, which is estimated to be valued at $8.4 billion (£6.3 billion), could herald the departure of long-standing F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone.

In an official statement, FIA president Jean Todt said: "While it remains to be seen how this acquisition will influence the promotion of the FIA Formula One championship, we welcome this long-term investment in Formula One by a company that has such a broad portfolio of sports, media and entertainment businesses.

"As motor sport’s governing body and regulator we acknowledge Liberty Media’s wide expertise in these fields and we look forward to working in close partnership with them in the future in order to further develop Formula One and bring it to new generations of motor sport enthusiasts around the world.”

F1 is currently controlled by CVC Capital Partners, a private equity group that has a 35% stake in Delta Topco, the company that owns the Formula One Group, which includes Formula One Management (FOM) and Formula One Administration (FOA).

Speculation at the weekend’s Italian Grand Prix – fuelled by Ecclestone (pictured below) in an interview with German magazine Auto Motor und Sport – suggested CVC was preparing to sell its stake to Liberty Media Corporation. The US firm is owned by American tycoon John Malone.

According to Sky Sports, the deal would signal the start of Liberty’s plan to acquire 100% of F1 shares, subject to approval from the FIA and legislators, and to publicly list F1 on the New York stock exchange. The Financial Times has said the initial deal would enable Liberty Media to acquire 10-15% of F1, with an agreement to take full control in the future.

Sky has said media executive Chase Carey, who has close ties to Rupert Murdoch, will be named as chairman of F1 once the deal is confirmed. He would replace Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, chairman for the past two years and former CEO of Nestlé, who is expected to stay on the board as a non-executive director.

Stalwart F1 journalist Joe Saward wrote on his personal blog on Monday that he had seen CVC chief Donald McKenzie tell McLaren boss Ron Dennis in Monza that Italy would be his last race, suggesting a change is imminent.

However, the deal may not yet be set in stone. Autosport reported on Sunday that Liberty Media still faces competition from other interested parties. It suggested CVC is still in negotiations with investment firm RSE Ventures, which owns the Miami Dolphins NFL team, in tandem with a Qatari consortium and another unnamed private equity firm.

What a sale would mean for Ecclestone remains unclear. The former driver and team owner has been the face of F1 for more than 40 years and owns a 5% stake in it himself. He has transformed and expanded the sport during his tenure at the top, but his influence has not been without controversy. Channel 4 pundit and former team boss Eddie Jordan said he understood Ecclestone would step down immediately, but Ecclestone has denied those claims. Reuters quoted Niki Lauda, three-time world champion and Mercedes non-executive chairman, as saying that Ecclestone would be at the next race in Singapore. Other senior F1 figures have also expressed doubt that Ecclestone's departure would be immediate.

Phill Tromans

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Comments
5

5 September 2016
I'd be surprised if Bernie would sell his remaining 5% for $400 million. He doesn't need the money and loves the job. Similarly, I'd have thought that Liberty would think that he adds $400 million to the business side of things in the way he runs it. Note I said business, and not sporting side, because whilst you can argue till the cows come home about the state of F1, the money side of it is pretty strong, and would likely be chaos in the short term when he disappears.

5 September 2016
This sport has been stagnant for years. Bernie is past it and should have stepped down a decade ago. Any takeover with him still calling the shots is a bad investment

6 September 2016
scrap wrote:

This sport has been stagnant for years. Bernie is past it and should have stepped down a decade ago. Any takeover with him still calling the shots is a bad investment

What tripe you talk - the F1 circus has improved massively under Bernie's Tenure, it has gone to countries never ever thought of as being capable of hosting one of these events, safety has grown, the cars have become more focused, hybrid tech and autonomous tech has been designed and engineered within F1 which has filtered down to road cars.

Without Bernie, or someone within the sport in charge, it will just become another monied event, yes the passion has gone, but it is coming back, the viewing figures and venue figures prove this, with Silverstone alone selling more tickets each year than ever before.

If you are going to make comments, then please do let them be factual and correct, i have forgotten more about F1 over the years than most people know, it has been a huge part of my life, having been to ever race around the world at some stage, i have been to six this year so far, i have already made arrangements through McLaren for 8 next year.

F1 is a huge sport, generating billions, but it takes a character to keep that coming, Bernie has been that for forty years, and he can and does shake things up frequently.

5 September 2016
of pointlessly massive wristwatches for that amount of money. And I still wouldn't wear one.

7 September 2016
For what it's worth,F1 needs a radical revamp,the racing is processional,there really as wit last season only one team in it,the rest are just filler,money plays too big a piece in it in terms of investors who rightly want to make a buck or two,the rules for racing?,why don't they ask the drivers want they'd like to drive?,wouldn't they know what makes it fun to drive these cars?,surely the abilities of the top ten can give sensible ideas as to what would entertain the punters!,as for Uncle Bernie,if he's that wealthy,why doesn't he do the job for no wages the then?,he's worth a bob or two is our Uncle Bernie you know?!,he supplies the planes to move the F1 Circus round the Planet,that must pay well too,not bad for a second hand car salesmen is it?

Peter Cavellini.

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