F1 Owner to Acquire MotoGP and WSBK

Dennis Chung
by Dennis Chung

Here’s what you need to know

Liberty Media Corporation, which owns the rights to Formula One, is acquiring Dorna Sports and the commercial rights to the MotoGP World Championship, as well as the World Superbike Championship and their respective support series. The deal is expected to be completed by the end of 2024, pending regular approval in multiple jurisdictions. Once completed, Liberty Media will own an 86% stake in Dorna Sports, with MotoGP’s management team retaining a 14% stake.

Here’s what you need to know about the transaction.

How Much is the Deal Worth?

Photo by Rob Gray (Polarity Photo)

The terms of the sale puts Dorna Sports at a total value of €4.2 billion (US$4.5 billion). Since Liberty Media is only gaining an 86% stake, that puts its equity value at €3.5 billion (US$3.8 billion).

Minus the 14% retained by MotoGP management, the rest of the deal will consist of approximately 65% cash and 21% in shares of Series C Liberty Formula One common stock.

MotoGP’s existing debt balance of €975 million (US$1.0 billion) will remain in place.

Who is Liberty Media?

Liberty Media is an American mass media company founded in 1991 by John C. Malone, who remains chairman of the company. Liberty owns several properties, with Formula One being the most notable in terms of the acquisition of Dorna Sports.

Other properties owned by Liberty Media include a majority stake in SiriusXM, a minority stake in Live Nation, and a stake in the Atlanta Braves baseball team.

Under the proposed transaction, MotoGP will be slotted into Liberty Media’s Formula One Group tracking stock.

Who Owns Dorna Sports and MotoGP?

Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta, pictured in 2022 signing a contract extension for the San Marino Grand Prix.

Until the deal is completed, Dorna Sports is owned by its management team, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPP Investments), and majority stake holder Bridgepoint. Under the proposed transaction, both Bridgepoint and CPP Investments are selling their stakes to Liberty Media. Dorna’s management held a 21% stake, and moving forward, it will retain 14%.

“We’re proud to have partnered with Dorna and its management team for the past 18 years during which time MotoGP has become one of the true global sports brands and enjoys huge success,” says William Jackson, chairman of Bridgepoint Group plc. and Dorna Sports. “The partnership has seen MotoGP grow its fan base across five continents and become the world’s most exciting sport.”

CPP Investment puts its net proceeds from the sale at CA$1.9 billion (US$1.4 billion), comprising 75% cash and 25% Liberty Formula One tracking stock.

Who Will Be In Charge?

Dorna’s Carmelo Ezpeleta (rear left) with Carlos Ezpeleta (rear right) and KTM Motorsport Director Pit Beirer (front).

With Dorna’s management holding on to a 14% stake, the leadership team will remain intact.

Carmelo Ezpeleta will remain as chief executive officer, a position he has held since 1994. Enrique Aldama will remain as chief operating officer and chief finance officer. Dan Rossomondo will remain as chief commercial officer, and Carlos Ezpeleta will continue as chief sporting officer.

“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,” says Ezpeleta. “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 Media 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.”

Dorna’s headquarters will also remain in Madrid, Spain.

What Will Likely Change?

Ezpeleta hinted at Liberty Media’s track record for developing its assets, and the new owners have already expressed plans to grow MotoGP.

“We are thrilled to expand our portfolio of leading live sports and entertainment assets with the acquisition of MotoGP,” says 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. The business has significant upside, and we intend to grow the sport for MotoGP fans, teams, commercial partners and our shareholders.”

In a presentation about the deal, Liberty Media highlighted several potential ways to grow the sport:

Liberty Media specifically points out the U.S. as a key market for expansion. In the last decade, we’ve seen MotoGP’s U.S. presence decrease, with Laguna Seca and Indianapolis dropped from the series, leaving Circuit of the Americas as the lone American round.

We expect Liberty Media will try to reverse this trend by adding more rounds in the U.S. We’ve seen Liberty Media do the same thing with Formula One, adding the Miami Grand Prix in 2022 and the Las Vegas Grand Prix in 2023.

Another one of Liberty Media’s talking points is “amplifying marketing support and storytelling capabilities”. We take that to mean something similar to the Formula 1: Drive to Survive docuseries which debuted on Netflix in 2019 and just streamed its sixth season. The series helped draw in a larger audience, particularly in the U.S., so it seems logical for Liberty Media to produce something similar for motorcycle racing.

Photo by Rob Gray (Polarity Photo)

What About Existing MotoGP Fans?

Anytime there’s a major change, there’s always a fear from the die-hards that things will change too much as a brand tries to draw in new audiences.

From its presentation, it’s clear that Liberty Media has done its homework on MotoGP fans, with a slide devoted to the fanbase’s demographics. We rarely get a look at this kind of data, so the information is enlightening.

The first bullet point highlights how engaged a vast majority of MotoGP fans are, with 82% of them following the sport for more than 6 years, and the same percentage watching more than 75% of all races. That last number is particularly impressive considering the various time zones that MotoGP rounds take place.

The second point shows how important live attendance is to MotoGP, with 40% of fans having attended a race in the last 5 years, and 24% traveling out of their home market to attend an event. Liberty Media expressed plans to improve the hospitality and fan experience. One of Liberty Media’s brands is QuintEvents, a hospitality company based in North Carolina that has worked with events including Formula One, the Kentucky Derby, and MotoGP, as well as venues such as Qatar’s Losail International Circuit.

We see from Liberty Media’s data that a majority of established fans are first and foremost fans of the sport first, ahead of a specific team or rider.

The fourth point is where Liberty Media sees room for growth. Liberty Media says younger fans are more likely to follow a specific rider, so we can probably expect more of a focus on riders in an attempt at drawing in new fans. Female fans are also typically younger, with a third of them being new fans of the sport.

What About World Superbike?

While MotoGP attracts a lot of attention, we can’t forget that Dorna Sports also holds the rights to World Superbike racing, along with various junior series including Moto2 and Moto3, and support series like MotoE and the new Women’s Circuit Racing World Championship.

Liberty Media hasn’t said much about these other properties yet, but they are included in the acquisition.

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Dennis Chung
Dennis Chung

Dennis has been a part of the Motorcycle.com team since 2008, and through his tenure, has developed a firm grasp of industry trends, and a solid sense of what's to come. A bloodhound when it comes to tracking information on new motorcycles, if there's a new model on the horizon, you'll probably hear about it from him first.

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2 of 4 comments
  • John Stockman John Stockman on Apr 02, 2024

    I had to drop my Video Pass subscriptions to MotoGP and WSBK because I simply cannot afford it anymore. Now that Outdoor Motocross is only on pay/streaming, I can't even watch that anymore. I have many friends here in rural Washington state alone that have no access to higher speed internet. The loss of Outdoor Motocross on broadcast TV was a huge disappointment. Hope that doesn't happen with MotoGP and WSBK. It does look like WSBK is on MAV TV now, but MotoGP has been relegated to TruTV. Maybe with Liberty's influence and broadcasting reach both those series can get back on a network that is easily available and doesn't cost a lot more than I'm paying now. MAV TV was added to my line up at no extra cost, so I can watch MotoAmerica and even British Superbike. This year MAV TV aired a terrific production of the Dakar Rally, maybe Liberty will recognize the availability and easy access with that network and negotiate so they can broadcast MotoGP and WSBK in the future. Motorcycle racing is life for me, been following all the series, national and world wide, since I was about 7 in the mid 60s. My grandfather would share his Cycle News subscription with me, which was the only way to follow it back then. He would talk with me about the bikes and the riders and I looked forward every week to each issue and the conversations we had. We used to go to Castle Rock, WA every year for the Flat Track Nationals and the TransAMA motocross races were held at the now-gone Puyallup Raceway Park near Tacoma, WA.

  • Mike buhler Mike buhler on Apr 03, 2024

    I'll stick with the Dakar for now but the Africa Eco Race is gaining strides...