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F1 Owner Liberty Media Takes Over MotoGP for $4.5 Billion

Liberty Media now commands the pinnacles of two- and four-wheeled racing.
Getty

It’s a big day in the business of motorsports, as confirmation has emerged that Liberty Media has purchased the commercial rights to MotoGP for a reported 4.2 billion euro—or approximately $4.5 billion. The purchase is for an 86% share of the company, with Dorna, MotoGP’s parent company, retaining the rest.

MotoGP is the premier, global motorcycle racing series—quite literally the Formula 1 of motorcycles. This means that Liberty Media now commands the pinnacles of two- and four-wheeled competition. It’s not clear yet what plans Liberty Media has for MotoGP’s future, but it will certainly represent a major shift in how the series operates and sells itself to the world.

Dorna Sports, a Spanish organization headed by Spanish businessman and former race director and engineer Carmelo Ezpeleta, has owned MotoGP since 1992. It’s kept a mostly Spanish staff since, with some Italians also in the top ranks. The organization is seen with a certain level of national pride, as it’s successfully taken motorcycle racing to the global stage during its ownership. And not to mention that most of the top motorcycle racers are also from Spain. It will be interesting to see how this tight-knit culture and European mentality may clash with Liberty Media’s management style.

CEO of Dorna Sports Carmelo Ezpeleta and F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali on the grid before the start of the MotoGP Grand Prix of Qatar. Getty Images

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

“Carmelo [Ezpeleta] 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.”

The deal is expected to be completed by the end of the year, meaning that it will likely take one or two more racing seasons until we observe Liberty Media’s influence within MotoGP and the way it does things. For starters, we can probably say goodbye to MotoGP being streamed at no extra cost on Max, because I highly doubt Liberty Media will continue to stream races for free.

If you’re an avid fan of the series, this is likely a bittersweet moment. MotoGP could benefit from bigger thinking, bigger funding, and even a little bit of an outside-the-box management style. However, this also means the end of MotoGP’s old-school ways, so get ready for a possible second attempt at a Ride To Survive docuseries in the next few years.

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