Bernie Ecclestone replaced
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Bernie Ecclestone’s reign of Formula One ended after Liberty Media officially completed its takeover of the series on Monday, and named American Chase Carey as the new chief executive.
Carey has already acted quickly by naming former Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn as managing director of motorsports, a move that is expected to be widely welcomed as the series prepares for a set of new rule changes it hopes will win back disgruntled fans.
The takeover came five days after motor sport’s governing body approved of F1 being sold to Liberty Media, a U.S. company that invests in entertainment and sports.
The transaction price represents an enterprise value for F1 of $8 billion and an equity value of $4.4 billion, Liberty said in a statement.
The 86-year-old Ecclestone remains on board as an honorary chairman and will be an F1 adviser, according to Liberty.“I’m proud of the business that I built over the last 40 years and all that I have achieved with Formula One, and would like to thank all of the promoters, teams, sponsors and television companies that I have worked with,” Ecclestone said in Liberty’s statement.
“I’m very pleased that the business has been acquired by Liberty and that it intends to invest in the future of F1. I am sure that Chase will execute his role in a way that will benefit the sport.”
As a TV executive, Carey helped launch Fox Sports and FoxNews, and took over from Rupert Murdoch as CEO of News Corporation.
Carey praised Ecclestone for what he did to develop the series.
”(F1) is what it is today because of him and the talented team of executives he has led, and he will always be part of the F1 family,” Carey said.
Last September, Liberty Media Corp., which is controlled by 75-year-old tycoon John Malone, ended years of uncertainty about the ownership of F1 when it first announced plans for a takeover.
Last week, the FIA’s World Motor Sport Council approved the change of control of Delta Topco, F1‘s holding company, from investment fund CVC Capital Partners to Liberty Media Group.With Liberty’s shareholders having approved the move, an FIA green light was the last regulatory step prior to the sale.
Although Carey was expected to replace Ecclestone, the buyout came sooner than expected and some way ahead of the new F1 season, which starts on March 26 with the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.
Liberty’s takeover comes at a timely moment of transition, with the series poised for a shakeup.
A new wave of changes such as wider tires, changes to car design, louder engines, and more overtaking opportunities are set to make F1 more exciting again in a bid to win back a large chunk of unhappy fans amid flagging attendances at some races.
“There is an enormous opportunity to grow the sport,” Liberty president Greg Maffei said.
“We have every confidence that Chase, with his abilities and experience, is the right person to achieve this.”Retired world champion Nico Rosberg said the time was right for a new era.“Bernie, mega job! But a change has been overdue,” Rosberg tweeted.
“Mr Carey, all the best in making our sport awesome again.”
Liberty’s expertise in the digital field is expected to help the series evolve in terms of social media, an aspect that Ecclestone previously said he overlooked.
In the short term, Liberty has the capacity to make some changes to the 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.
“F1 has huge potential with multiple untapped opportunities,” Carey said.
“I have enjoyed hearing from the fans, teams, FIA, promoters and sponsors on their ideas and hopes. We will work with all of these partners to enhance the racing experience and add new dimensions, and we look forward to sharing these plans over time.”
As well as contracting Brawn, Carey has hired Sean Bratches — formerly of ESPN — as managing director.
Brawn has more than 40 years of experience in engineering and management, helping Ferrari win 11 world titles and seven with Williams and Bennetton.
Perhaps his greatest achievement was winning the 2009 F1 title against all odds with his own BrawnGP team — the Honda F1 team he rescued and renamed — with British driver Jenson Button producing the season of his life.
Brawn then helped Mercedes develop the car that won three straight titles from 2014-16.
“It’s fantastic to be returning to the world of Formula One,” Brawn said.
“I’ve enjoyed consulting with Liberty Media these last few months and I’m looking forward to working with Chase, Sean, and the rest of the Formula One team to help the evolution of the sport.”
Bratches is credited as one of ESPN’s most influential leaders, with over 27 years of experience, most recently as executive vice president of sales and marketing.
Carey said Brawn “has almost unparalleled technical knowledge, experience and relationships” while adding that “Sean was a driving force in building ESPN into one of the world’s leading sports franchises.”
With the completion of the acquisition, the Liberty Media Group will shortly be renamed the Formula One Group.
Liberty Media expects the group name change and the symbol change to take place this week.
F1 will remain based in London, and Maffei will be deputy chairman of the board of F1.