GENEVA – The World Motor Sport Council has approved Formula One being sold to Liberty Media, a U.S. company that invests in entertainment and sports, for $4.4 billion.
Liberty Media Corp., which is controlled by 75-year-old tycoon John Malone, ended years of uncertainty about the ownership of F1 with the takeover announcement in September. Four months on, the FIA's World Motor Sport Council approved at a meeting on Wednesday the change of control of Delta Topco, F1's holding company, from investment fund CVC Capital Partners to Liberty Media Group.
F1's new chairman will be Chase Carey, an American who formerly ran 21st Century Fox. He will replace 86-year-old F1 commercial chief Bernie Ecclestone, who is staying on for the short term under the new ownership.
The FIA said in a statement that it ''looks forward to working with the new owners of the Formula One Group on further developing the unrivaled global spectacle'' of F1.
With Liberty's shareholders having already approving the move, FIA approval was the last regulatory step prior to the sale. The buyout is now expected to be completed before the new F1 season starts in Melbourne on March 26.
''During the meeting, the representatives of the prospective new owner made a detailed presentation of their strategy,'' the FIA said. ''The members of the World Motor Sport Council then had the opportunity to ask questions about the specifics of the agreement, the ongoing working relationship with the FIA and Liberty's plans for the sport.''
The FIA is completely satisfied that all the conditions have been met.
''Liberty, as a renowned media organization with expertise in both sport and entertainment, is clearly well positioned to ensure the continued development of its pinnacle championship,'' the FIA said. ''Liberty, Formula One Group, and the FIA intend to collaborate to create a constructive relationship that will ensure the continued success and the development of the FIA Formula One World Championship in the long term.''
The FIA holds a one percent shareholding in Delta Topco and so will be involved in the sale process, under the same conditions as CVC and the other shareholders.
In the short term, Liberty has the capacity to make some changes to the season calendar – such as an extra race in the U.S. – promotion, and digital media coverage.
Other, more in-depth changes such as scheduling of race weekends, rules governing car design and fairer distribution of revenue to teams are governed by the Concorde Agreement – between the owners, the teams, and the FIA. That agreement runs through the end of 2020 so big changes could not be made before then.
A new wave of changes for 2017 – such as wider tires, changes to car design, louder engines, and more overtaking – are set to make F1 more exciting again in a bid to win back a large chunk of disgruntled fans amid flagging attendances at some races.
With Mercedes utterly dominating the last three seasons, fans want more for their money.
Nico Rosberg won last year's championship ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton with their rivals way behind. In the two seasons before that, it was the same story, but with Hamilton finishing ahead of Rosberg.
F1 is hopeful that the new changes make it a more level playing field next season, with Ferrari and Red Bull hopeful of challenging more strongly.
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