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Going for growth — US-based F1 owner Liberty Media announces MotoGP takeover

Going for growth — US-based F1 owner Liberty Media announces MotoGP takeover
Motorcycling's premier class, MotoGP, has been acquired by Liberty Media, the same company that owns Formula 1. (Photo: Mirco Lazzari gp/Getty Images)

The premier classes of two-wheel and four-wheel motor racing will fall under one owner after Liberty Media’s takeover of MotoGP.

Formula 1’s US-based owner Liberty Media announced a takeover of MotoGP’s parent company Dorna on Monday, valuing the world’s leading motorcycle racing championship at €4.2-billion (R85-billion).

Dorna will stay an independently run company attributed to Liberty Media’s Formula One Group tracking stock and continue to be based in Madrid, with long-serving Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta remaining in his position.

“This is the perfect next step in the evolution of MotoGP, and we are excited for what this milestone brings to Dorna, the MotoGP paddock and racing fans,” Ezpeleta said in a Liberty Media statement.

The deal will see Liberty Media acquiring approximately 86% of Dorna, with Dorna management retaining around 14% of its equity. The deal is expected to be completed by the end of 2024.

The transaction reflects an enterprise value of €4.2-billion for Dorna/MotoGP and an equity value of €3.5-billion, the statement said.

Dorna Sports, which was roughly 40% owned by British private investment company Bridgepoint Group, also promotes the World Superbike Championship and all-electric MotoE as well as Moto2 and Moto3 junior categories.

“We are thrilled to expand our portfolio of leading live sports and entertainment assets with the acquisition of MotoGP,” Liberty Media President and CEO Greg Maffei said.

“The business has significant upside, and we intend to grow the sport for MotoGP fans, teams, commercial partners and our shareholders.”

MotoGP, Brad Binder

SA’s Brad Binder and Red Bull KTM Factory Racing (No 33) in action during the MotoGP of Portugal in the Algarve on 24 March, 2024, Portugal. (Photo: Mirco Lazzari gp/Getty Images)

More US races?

Maffei noted, in an interview with CNBC television, that Formula 1 had only one grand prix in the United States when Liberty took over and now has three.

MotoGP currently has one US race on a 21-round calendar that includes Asia and the Middle East but with a European heartland dominated by Spain and Italy.

“I’m not suggesting we’re going to get to three but the opportunity to grow in the US and in other markets and other geographies… is very exciting,” said Maffei.

Read more in Daily Maverick: ‘Let’s get ready to grumble’ – Formula One drivers complain about showbiz elements, but the sport is thriving

CVC Capital Partners, who sold Formula 1 to Liberty in 2017, had to sell Dorna in 2006 as a condition imposed by the European Commission in the purchase of F1.

Maffei and Liberty’s chief legal officer Renee Wilm told a conference call with analysts, however, that the situation was different now and they were confident on the regulatory side.

“We believe there is a broad market for sports and entertainment properties, of which both F1 and MotoGP are only a small subset, and that the market has continued to change from the time when this was previously reviewed in a major way,” said Maffei.

“These are both separate properties. The things that we are bringing to the table here are not in any way leveraging the two.

“We believe the regulatory process will move quickly and smoothly, but will take the time they need and this deal will get done.”

Wilm said Liberty would be filing with the EU, UK, Brazil and Australia for antitrust clearance and making FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) filings in Spain and Italy.

“We think those should be done pretty quickly and that the anti-trust clearance should be obtained by the end of the year so we can have a Q4 closing,” she added.

Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) bought a 39% stake in Dorna from Bridgepoint in 2012. The remaining shares were owned by Dorna management, whose stake has dropped to 14% following the takeover.

Bridgepoint said in a statement that the transaction represented the transfer of all its existing stake and that of CPPIB to Liberty. Reuters/DM

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