F1's Liberty Media Owner Has Purchased MotoGP from Dorna


Last week, news broke that Formula One owner Liberty Media was reportedly deep into acquisition talks to bring MotoGP rights-holder Dorna into the fold. Now, just a few days later, Liberty Media has announced that it has acquired an 86% stake for $4.5 billion, giving controlling interest in the series.

According to Liberty Media’s Greg Maffei, the group’s President and CEO, “We are thrilled to expand our portfolio of leading live sports and entertainment assets with the acquisition of MotoGP. MotoGP is a global league with a loyal, enthusiastic fan base, captivating racing and a highly cash flow generative financial profile.”

He added, “Carmelo and his management team have built a great sporting spectacle that we can expand to a wider global audience. The business has significant upside, and we intend to grow the sport for MotoGP fans, teams, commercial partners and our shareholders.”

MotoGP’s current management will retain 14%. 

Although MotoGP is both the top level of international motorcycle racing and undoubtedly the shiniest gem in Dorna’s crown, it’s also worth noting that the deal will see Liberty Media take control of all of those other motorcycle racing series, too, including; MotoGP, World Superbike (WSBK), FIM Enel MotoE World Championship, FINetwork FIM JuniorGP, Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup, R&G British Talent Cup, Northern Talent Cup, FIM MiniGP World Series, and the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup. 

So let’s get into who Liberty Media is and what this might hold for the future of motorcycle racing around the world. 

Who Or What Is Liberty Media?

For those unfamiliar, Liberty Media owns a lot of other media, communications, and entertainment interests besides Formula One. A quick consultation of its current asset list, which is accurate as of January 31, 2024, includes the following holdings:

Holding How Much Does LM Own?
Formula One 100 percent
F1 Arcade (full-motion racing simulators) 21 percent
LV Diamond Property LLC (owns the approximately 40 acres in Las Vegas where the F1 Las Vegas GP paddock sits) 100 percent
Meyer Shank Racing (American racing team currently competing in the NTT IndyCar series and the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship) 30 percent
QuintEvents, LLC (sports and entertainment ticket and hospitality package provider) 100 percent
Associated Partners, L.P. (investments) 33 percent
Drone Racing League, Inc 3 percent
Green Energy Investments various
Griffin Gaming Fund (gaming-focused VC fund) 3 percent
Inrix, Inc (transportation analytics software firm) 4 percent
Kroenke Arena Company, LLC (owns Denver, Colorado’s Ball Arena and also “includes a 7 percent profits interest based on the value of the Denver Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche professional sports teams.”) 7 percent
Liberty Technology Venture Capital, LLC (investment fund focused on Israeli technology companies) 80 percent
Live Nation Entertainment Inc. (self-reported as the “largest live entertainment company in the world, consisting of three segments: concerts, sponsorship, and advertising and ticketing.”) 30 percent
Overtime Sports, Inc (sports media company) 5 percent
Tastemade, Inc (food, travel, and lifestyle digital media company) 6 percent
SiriusXM Holdings Inc (satellite radio company providing subscription services) 83 percent

Liberty Global is currently chaired by billionaire John Malone, who as recently as November 2023 spoke to the Hollywood Reporter about the rising threat of massive tech companies accruing media interests (think Amazon purchasing the rights to Thursday Night Football, for example). 

Malone went on to opine that Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav was doing “a great job”, and THR noted at that time that Malone is also a shareholder in Warner Bros. Discovery.

As you may recall, Warner Bros. Discovery merged with HBO Max back in 2022, eventually going on to form the Max streaming service which also recently obtained exclusive live streaming rights for the MotoGP world championship in the US in 2024. It’s how I watch MotoGP, and it’s how countless other US-based fans will doubtless be enjoying the current season, as well.

What About The European Commission’s Strong Antitrust Tendencies?

Both F1 and MotoGP have been here before. Back in 2006, private equity firm CVC Capital Partners briefly owned both top-level motorsport series. However, EU competition regulators at that time took a dim view of the matter and forced the firm to sell MotoGP. Later, CVC would be the firm to sell F1 on to Liberty Media in the first place in 2017, in a deal worth $8 billion at the time (which would be over $10 billion in 2024 money).

That was 2006, though. This is 2024, and it’s not clear how the situation, regulators, or other environmental factors might have changed between then and now. Although it’s not sports-related, we can say that it’s clear EU regulators aren’t afraid to go after mega corporations that it believes don’t comply with its existing antitrust rules.

For further proof, just look at the ongoing European Commission investigations into Apple, Meta, and Google.

Taking All Currently Known Factors Into Consideration, What Does RideApart Think?

Get a group of like-minded fans together in one place, no matter the circumstance, and they’re going to have thoughts ranging from things like “imagine a world where MotoGP is a support series for F1; doubleheaders, even” (Jonathon Klein) to “no one would be able to afford tickets” (Janaki Jitchotvisut) and “I think the fans would hate it” (Robbie Bacon). 

Executive Editor Jonathon Klein also had these thoughts, “I’m conflicted. I’m a big Formula 1 fan and the way that Liberty Media, in conjunction with Netflix, has reinvigorated the sport has been nothing short of wild to witness. If the company can do that with MotoGP, I’m here for it. But at the same time, I’ve essentially been priced out of seeing most races as Liberty Media has imposed higher and higher ticket prices.”

He added, “I’m also concerned that the level of grift and corruption we’ve seen in recent years within Formula 1 in relation to championship winners and losers, where the sport goes to race, among other aspects within the paddock could spread to MotoGP. The influx of cash to a sport can go either way, but the current leadership of Liberty Media doesn’t seem to care, rather embraces, the grift that was always present in F1. I’d hate to see that come to MotoGP in the same way it came to F1. But I’d like to be optimistic and see greater things for a sport I love and more people to enjoy it.”

Now that the deal is done, how do you expect it to affect you as a racing fan of any of the series involved? Let us know in the comments!



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