Formula One Has Reportedly Been Sold to Liberty Media

Deal expected to be officially announced today. 

formula one racing john malone bernie ecclestone
Peter J Fox/Getty Images

The world's most famous racing series appears to have found a new owner. Formula One has reportedly been sold to Liberty Media, a conglomerate owned by American billionaire John Malone.

The deal, according to Forbes, will be officially inked on Tuesday, with an official announcement expected shortly thereafter. "It is going to happen," a source told Forbes. "It is as done as it can be."

According to The Guardian, Liberty Media will initially purchase a 20 percent chunk of the Formula One Group, then going on to assume control later in 2016 with a 49 percent stake. The deal is expected to value F1 at approximately $8.5 billion.

In addition to being the cornerstone of modern-day motorsports, F1 is also one hell of a moneymaker. An analysis by Formula Money found the series has made private equity firm CVC, which currently controls the series with a 35.5 percent share of the stock, more than $4 billion over the last decade on a $1.7 billion investment. 

Malone, 75, was nicknamed "Darth Vader" by former vice-president Al Gore for his hard-nosed business tactics. His company Liberty Media controls or has invested in everything from SiriusXM satellite radio to the Atlanta Braves; Malone also owns a portion of Discovery Networks, the broad group of programming channels that grew out of the Discovery Channel, and a 49 percent interest in Starz Inc. 

The purchase by Liberty Media could prove a headache for Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation. News Corp has a long-standing rivalry with Liberty, but F1 has proven a treasure trove for Murdock's BSkyB satellite television channel. According to The Guardian, News Corp executive Chase Carey has been groomed to become the next chairman of Formula One; it remains to be seen if that arrangement would still go through under the new deal. 

As for what role current F1 bossman Bernie Ecclestone will play in the sport after the sale goes through, that will be up to both the new owners and Bernie himself. “I will do what I have always done," Ecclestone said in an interview, according to The Guardian. "What role I play is my decision."

Regardless of his role, Ecclestone still owns 5.3 percent of Formula One, with his family's Bambino Trust holding a further 8.4 percent. So odds are good Bernie won't be riding off into the sunset anytime soon.