F1 owner Liberty Media acquires MotoGP in €4.2bn deal

US media company to acquire approximately 86% of commercial rights holder Dorna in deal expected to close by end of year.
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  • Long-time Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta to remain in position
  • Equity value of deal sits at €3.5bn

Formula One owner Liberty Media has purchased MotoGP in a deal worth an enterprise value of €4.2 billion (US$4.5 billion).

The US media company will acquire approximately 86 per cent of Dorna, the commercial rights holder of the global motorcycling series.

Dorna will remain an independently run company attributed to Liberty Media’s Formula One Group tracking stock, and long-time chief executive Carmelo Ezpeleta will remain in his position.

Dorna, which also holds the exclusive rights to the World Superbike Championship, the all-electric MotoE series, and the Moto2 and Moto3 feeder series, will retain around 14 per cent of equity in the business.

The equity value of the deal is €3.5 billion (US$3.8 billion), which takes into account the existing debt that will remain in place after the deal closes. Dorna currently has a €975 million (US$1.05 billion) gross loan granted by BNP Paribas, which expires in 2029.

“We are thrilled to expand our portfolio of leading live sports and entertainment assets with the acquisition of MotoGP,” said Greg Maffei, president and chief executive of Liberty Media.

“MotoGP is a global league with a loyal, enthusiastic fanbase, 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.

“The business has significant upside, and we intend to grow the sport for MotoGP fans, teams, commercial partners and our shareholders.”

Ezpeleta added: “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.

“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.”

The deal is expected to close at the end of this year, subject to clearance and approval by competition and foreign investment law authorities.

BlackBook says…

On the surface, this seems to be a no-brainer for Liberty Media. It brought huge commercial benefits to Formula One and will be bullish about replicating that success for another global motorsport series. 

Working in its favour is that MotoGP has already made considerable strides in the US, with Trackhouse Racing joining the grid, Warner Bros Discovery (WBD) pursuing the next round of media rights, and discussions taking place over the addition of a second US event.

However, none of this will matter if Liberty Media cannot secure approval for this deal. CVC Capital Partners owned MotoGP when it bought Formula One, but was forced to sell the former in 2006 after EU competition regulators raised objections.

Interest in Formula One is at an all-time high and Liberty Media could make a hefty profit on the initial deal worth US$8 billion. It’s far too early to say, but this may be the clearest indication yet that Liberty Media is prepared to discuss selling the global behemoth.

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