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The weekend’s Italian Formula One Grand Prix saw heightened speculation that Liberty Media’s planned acquisition of the sport was a ‘done deal’, with an announcement expected as early as Tuesday September 6. Senior sources close to the deal suggest that all terms have been agreed and all that remains is the formality of signing. The cost of the deal is rumoured to be in the region of $8.4 billion (€7.5bn).
Advanced Television first revealed Liberty Media owner John Malone’s interest in taking over F1 in February 2014. At the time, it was understood that Liberty Global, the international arm of Malone’s business, and multi-channel programmer Discovery Communications were working alongside Liberty Media to purchase as much as 49 per cent of Formula One Group from private equity player CVC Capital Partners. CVC bought F1 in 2005-06 from its lenders, investing nearly $1 billion and using $2.5 billion of debt. It currently owns 34.6 per cent of Formula One.
Any such deal could face a number of regulatory challenges. Liberty Global owns 9.9 per cent of UK commercial broadcaster ITV as well as UK and Ireland quad-play Virgin Media. It also holds a minority position in the electric racing series Formula E alongside co-investor Discovery Communications, which also owns broadcaster Eurosport and is connected to Malone, who holds 29 per cent of its voting rights.
Other reports from within the F1 paddock suggest that CVC is also understood to still be negotiating with RSE Ventures, an investment firm run by Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, working in tandem with a Qatari consortium, and another as yet unnamed private equity firm.