With the announcement on Wednesday night that Liberty Media has agreed to take control of Formula One, the sport is set to undergo one of its biggest shake ups. The Indian Express looks at the road ahead.
Who are Liberty Media?
It is a US-based company that invests in entertainment and sports, controlled by 75-year-old tycoon John Malone. Malone also owns Major League Baseball team Atlanta Braves and has stakes in radio company Sirius XM and European telecom company Liberty Global, U.S. cable company Charter and various cable-TV companies. Malone’s worth is reported to be $6.5billion.
Why was there a need to have new owners?
The previous biggest shareholders, one of Europe’s largest equity firms CVC Capital Partners — who owned 35.5 percent stake — were often criticised for the little effort they put in popularising the sport. F1, many said, had stagnated in the last 10 years, with races becoming predictable and the sport losing its market in the US. In 2014, Force India’s deputy team principal Bob Fernley said CVC had ‘no interest whatsoever in the future of F1.’ Earlier this year, the drivers too had issued a joint letter, saying the decision making was ‘obsolete and ill-structured.’ F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone too was critical, saying, “F1 is at the worst it has ever been. I wouldn’t spend my money to take my family to watch a race.”
How will this impact Formula One?
Many believe this is the shake up the sport was desperately in need of. Chase Carey, former vice-president of 21st Century Fox and a board member of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, will be the chairman. He has said the will focus on “increasing promotion and marketing of Formula 1 as a sport and brand”. The general belief is that the sport will get a huge facelift with the new owners and the injection of new ideas could revive it.
Does it benefit the teams?
The deal could be huge for the teams, who have been forced to rely on money from the sport’s previous owners. According to reports, teams will be given an opportunity to buy a stake in F1 for the first time. The likes of McLaren, Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari are all rumoured to be interested in investing in the sport directly. If they do, they will enjoy a share of profits. How it impacts the mid and lower level teams remains to be seen.
What happens to the current F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone?
Ecclestone, who will turn 86 next month, has insisted earlier this week that he will continue to be the head of the sport regardless of the new owners. The Brit was employed as the CEO of F1 by previous owners CVC, but he seems to be indispensible to the new owners primarily because of the role he has played in building the brand. Red Bull team principal Christian Horner recently said: “For a new group to come in without him being there would be very difficult, so I’d assume he will be around for some time.”