The Associated Press
REUTERS / Ralph Orlowski
LONDON – Bernie Ecclestone’s long-standing governance of Formula One ended after Liberty Media officially completed its takeover of the series on Monday, and named American Chase Carey as the new chief executive.
The takeover came five days after motor sport’s governing body approved of F1 being sold to Liberty Media, a U.S. company that invests in entertainment and sports.
The transaction price represents an enterprise value for F1 of $8 billion and an equity value of $4.4 billion, Liberty said in a statement on Monday.
The 86-year-old Ecclestone remains on board as an honorary chairman and will be an F1 adviser, according to Liberty.
”I’m proud of the business that I built over the last 40 years and all that I have achieved with Formula One, and would like to thank all of the promoters, teams, sponsors and television companies that I have worked with,” Ecclestone said in Liberty’s statement. ”I’m very pleased that the business has been acquired by Liberty and that it intends to invest in the future of F1. I am sure that Chase will execute his role in a way that will benefit the sport.”
Carey praised Ecclestone for what he did to develop the series.
”(F1) is what it is today because of him and the talented team of executives he has led, and he will always be part of the F1 family,” Carey said.
Last September, Liberty Media Corp., which is controlled by 75-year-old tycoon John Malone, ended years of uncertainty about the ownership of F1 when it first announced plans for a takeover. Last week, the FIA’s World Motor Sport Council approved the change of control of Delta Topco, F1’s holding company, from investment fund CVC Capital Partners to Liberty Media Group.
With Liberty’s shareholders having approved the move, an FIA green light was the last regulatory step prior to the sale. Although Carey was expected to replace Ecclestone, the buyout came sooner than expected and some way ahead of the new F1 season, which starts on March 26 with the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.
Liberty’s takeover comes at a timely moment of transition, with the series poised for a shakeup.
A new wave of changes for 2017 such as wider tires, changes to car design, louder engines, and more overtaking are set to make F1 more exciting again in a bid to win back a large chunk of disgruntled fans amid flagging attendances at some races.
In the short term, Liberty has the capacity to make some changes to the calendar – such as an extra race in the U.S. – promotion, and digital media coverage.
Other, more in-depth changes such as scheduling of race weekends, rules governing car design, and fairer distribution of revenue to teams are governed by the Concorde Agreement between the owners, the teams, and the FIA. That agreement runs through the end of 2020 so big changes could not be made before then.
”F1 has huge potential with multiple untapped opportunities,” Carey said. ”I have enjoyed hearing from the fans, teams, FIA, promoters and sponsors on their ideas and hopes for the sport. We will work with all of these partners to enhance the racing experience and add new dimensions to the sport and we look forward to sharing these plans over time.”