The news has broken that a Formula One Sale is imminent, and it appears now that the buyer will be an investment firmed named Liberty Media. When I heard “American Corporation” I thought Apple, Microsoft, Bojangle’s Chicken and Biscuits, maybe Walmart? So it begs the questions – Who is Liberty Media and what is their interest in Formula One?
I’ll attack the question in two parts. First, with a history of Liberty Media. Liberty, and its Chairman John Malone have had a long, impressive, but extremely confusing journey through the corporate landscape with a series of spring-off corporations and ownership swings. However, as of today Liberty Media owns stakes in many companies, most notably the Atlanta Braves (100% ownership), SiriusXM (65%) , and LiveNation(34%). Aside from these holdings there are smaller stakes in companies such as Viacom, who owns multiple TV brands such as MTV. A portfolio that includes the Braves and Formula One would make it an interesting player in sports media management.
So why would anyone buy Formula One? As a fan, its a no-brainer. As a business manager it looks a lot less intelligent of an investment. For years Bernie Ecclestone has been leaching money out of hosting venues, butting heads with teams on revenue sharing and expanding media rights to the farthest reaches of the globe. He’s opened up pay-per-view services around the globe. How many avenues for revenue are left to return what looks to be a huge investment? As a consumer and a fan I might pay a couple bucks more for an expanded “F1 Access” application but that would only hurt the network carriers like NBC Sports. On top of this, Formula One and FIA government structure seem like a headache.
So what would you do if your bought Formula One? Bring back in-season testing? Get rid of the engine token penalty system? Allow teams to bring back v12’s if they wanted?