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Sale of MotoGP to F1 Owner Liberty Media Makes Too Much Sense Not to Happen

by Steven Cole Smith
3 April 2024 2 min read
Sale of MotoGP to F1 Owner Liberty Media Makes Too Much Sense Not to Happen
Photos courtesy Getty Images

A surprise? Not so much. Monday’s announcement that Liberty Media, owner of Formula 1, would acquire 86 percent of Dorna Sports, which controls MotoGP, for an estimated $4.5 billion in cash, debt and F1 stock, was expected.

The central question was whether it would be Liberty Media or some other outlet, such as Qatar Sports Investments or the TKO Group, which controls the WWE and the UFC, signing the big cheque.
Wisely, Liberty is keeping Dorna CEO-since-1994 Carmelo Ezpeleta in place, as MotoGP management retains a 14-percent stake in the company.

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“If Liberty has been looking for us, we have been looking for Liberty as well,” said Ezpeleta, 77, in an interview with a European sports publication. “It is important for us to have access to their resources and knowledge, to better tell the story of our championship. Liberty is happy with the way we have run the company, and we will continue with our own people, independent of Formula 1.”

Moto3 pack

MotoGP’s 21-race season began March 10 in Qatar, and ends November 17 in Spain, which is MotoGP’s home. Liberty says the company will remain headquartered in Madrid, Spain.

The Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas, held at the Austin, Texas, Circuit of the Americas, is scheduled for April 12-14. It will be the first look for U.S. fans at the new Trackhouse Racing MotoGP team, backed by the Aprilia factory. Trackhouse, known for its successful NASCAR entries, is the first U.S. team in MotoGP in over a decade. Riders are Raul Fernandez and Miguel Oliveira.

Raul Fernandez trackhouse racing
Raul Fernandez of Trackhouse Racing at the Tissot Grand Prix of Portugal in March 2024.

MotoGP is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, tracing its history to a June, 1949 350cc motorcycle race on the Isle of Man. Thirty countries have staged Grands Prix, with the most recent being India, with Buddh International Circuit hosting MotoGP for the first time in 2023. This year, Kazakhstan is set to become the 31st country, with the Grand Prix of Kazakhstan taking place on June 16th.

The buyout is expected to be completed by the end of the year. Still, Liberty Media’s ownership of MotoGP is likely to face some scrutiny: The purchase will be subject to “the receipt of clearances and approvals by competition and foreign investment law authorities in various jurisdictions,” Liberty said.

Likely its legal team is ready for challenges, especially with the foresight that CVC Capital Partners was forced to sell MotoGP in 2005 in order to satisfy the European Union that it should be allowed to take over Formula 1. CVC had owned MotoGP since 1998. The Commission was concerned that owning both MotoGP and F1 would lead to television price increases and less choice for consumers.

Regardless, “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.”

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