Formula One owner closes in on €4bn deal for MotoGP

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Formula One owner Liberty Media is in exclusive talks to buy the company that owns MotoGP for more than €4bn, in a deal that would unite the elite car and motorcycle racing series, according to people familiar with the matter.

Liberty, which is chaired by telecoms and entertainment billionaire John Malone, is poised to agree the takeover of Dorna Sports after seeing off a rival bid from TKO, the sports and entertainment group run by Hollywood powerbroker Ari Emanuel, the people said.

Qatar Sports Investments, the state-backed group that owns French football club Paris Saint-Germain, had also expressed interest in Dorna and held talks with its owner, Bridgepoint, the private equity firm.

Madrid-based Dorna represents a rare opportunity to buy into a global sport with lucrative commercial rights. Dorna promotes several competitions, including the Superbike World Championship and an electric biking series called MotoE. It organises 251 races a year in 20 countries.

Any deal, however, is likely to face regulatory scrutiny. Private equity firm CVC Capital Partners once owned both F1 and MotoGP but was forced to sell the motorcycle series in 2006 as a condition of buying F1 after EU competition regulators raised concerns. CVC sold F1 to Liberty in 2017 in a deal worth $8bn.

James Killick, competition lawyer at White & Case, said that the history of F1 and MotoGP and the size of a potential combined group made competition probes “quite likely”, both in countries such as the UK and Germany, and at an EU-wide level.

“I’d be very surprised if competition regulators didn’t look at it”, he said. “The question is, has the market changed?”

Bridgepoint and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board are the major shareholders in Dorna. Dorna’s management, including chief executive Carmelo Ezpeleta, are also shareholders. Ezpeleta has led Dorna for 30 years, echoing how Bernie Ecclestone dominated F1 for decades.

Bridgepoint, the CPPIB, Dorna, Liberty Media, F1, TKO and QSI declined to comment.

Liberty’s offer values Dorna at more than €4bn, including debt. An agreement is close but an announcement could be pushed into next week, one of the people cautioned.

Buying MotoGP would give Liberty Media, led by chief executive Greg Maffei, the chance to prove that its success in growing the popularity of F1 was not a one-off.

Like F1, the MotoGP business model revolves around broadcast rights, fees from racing circuits, sponsorship, corporate hospitality and merchandising.

Under Liberty, F1 has made promoting the sport on social media a priority and gave Netflix unprecedented access to make the reality series Drive to Survive.

The programme focused on the drivers, team bosses and owners and has been credited with growing the sport’s fanbase. Liberty has taken F1 to Miami, Las Vegas, Jeddah and Doha, expanding the calendar to a record 24 races this year.

F1’s operating profit increased by 64 per to $392mn in 2023 from a year earlier, as revenues surged to $3.2bn from $2.5bn. Dorna’s revenues totalled €483mn in 2023.

Bridgepoint, which has been a Dorna shareholder for 18 years, owns about 40 per cent of the business that it bought at an enterprise value of €550mn in 2006. The CPPIB bought its 39 per cent stake in Dorna from Bridgepoint in 2012.

Additional reporting by Josh Noble and Arash Massoudi in London

Via

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