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Formula 1 and MotoGP are now owned by Liberty Media. Has this happened before?

The owners of Formula 1 have just acquired MotoGP but believe it or not, this isn’t the first time both brands have sat under one roof. What do we know?

The owners of Formula 1 have just acquired MotoGP but believe it or not, this isn’t the first time both brands have sat under one roof. What do we know?
Rodrigo AntunesREUTERS

While there are still various steps to be taken, what is now clear is that Formula 1′s owners have made the initial move to purchase a majority share in MotoGP, thereby unifying two of the biggest brands in motorsports today.

Liberty Media buys MotoGP for $4.5 billion

If you haven’t seen the news, let us be the first to inform you that on Monday, Liberty Media, the owners of Formula One, agreed to a deal that will see the company purchase MotoGP for an estimated $4.5 billion. MotoGP announced in a statement that Liberty Media would acquire “approximately 86 percent” stake from Spain-based owners Dorna in a deal that is said to be valued at 4.2 billion euros or $4.5 billion. As things stand, the sale is slated to be completed by the end of 2024 pending various clearances and approvals from foreign investment firms and law authorities from a number of jurisdictions.

“Liberty Media Corporation has announced an agreement to acquire MotoGP. MotoGP is the pinnacle of two wheels,” read a statement issued by MotoGP. “Liberty Media will acquire approximately 86 percent of Dorna, with Dorna management retaining approximately 14 percent of their equity in the business. The transaction reflects an enterprise value for Dorna/MotoGP of €4.2 billion and an equity value of €3.5 billion, with MotoGP’s existing debt balance expected to remain in place after close.”

The lowdown on Liberty Media’s purchase of Formula 1

Surprisingly, Liberty Media won’t be the first company to unify both Formula One and MotoGP under one roof. Previously, private equity firm CVC Capital Partners had owned the two organizations but was later forced to sell the motorcycle series to buy F1 after EU competition regulators raised objections in the context of a potential monopoly. Truthfully, such mobility in the market is likely why Liberty was not the only company interested in acquiring Dorna. Indeed, it’s understood that Qatar Sports Investments (QSI), owners of French champions Paris Saint-Germain, and TKO Group Holdings, which comprises mixed martial arts organization UFC and World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), also made attempts to acquire MotoGP.

Ultimately, it was Liberty who was able to take control of the brand and will now be moving forward on two different fronts in the world of motorsports. “We are thrilled to expand our portfolio of leading live sports and entertainment assets with the acquisition of MotoGP,” said Greg Maffei, Liberty Media President and CEO. “MotoGP is a global league with a loyal, enthusiastic fan base, captivating racing, and a highly cash flow generative financial profile. Carmelo and his management team have built a great sporting spectacle that we can expand to a wider global audience.” For the purpose of context, Liberty purchased F1 for $8 billion back in 2017 and since then the sport has seen a massive jump in popularity, something that led Maffei to state that while it’s not for sale, it’s now worth “a hell of a lot more” than $20 billion.”

As for what things look like going forward, long-serving CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta will maintain the post that he has held since 1994 with the business headquarters remaining in Madrid. “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,” he said. “We are proud of the global sport we’ve grown, and this transaction is a testament to the value of the sport today and its growth potential. Liberty has an incredible track record in developing sports assets and we could not wish for a better partner to expand MotoGP’s fanbase around the world.”