Liberty Media shareholders approve Formula One acquisition plan

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WASHINGTON: Liberty Media’s takeover of Formula One moved a further step forward on Tuesday as stockholders greenlighted a bid that values the world’s premier motor racing brand at $8 billion.

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At the meeting in Englewood, Colorado, stockholders approved a proposal on issuing of shares related to the deal, which was announced in September, and approved the renaming of Liberty’s media group to “Liberty Formula One Group.”

The deal must still be approved by Formula One’s governing body, the International Automobile Federation, but Liberty said it expects it to be finalized by the end of March.

US billionaire John Malone’s Liberty announced in September it had struck an agreement to buy out Formula One’s parent company from CVC Capital, and had already acquired a minority stake of 18.7 percent.

On Tuesday in a statement the company said stockholders approved a proposal relating to the issuance of shares in connection with the acquisition, and a proposal approving a name change from the “Media Group” to the “Formula One Group.”

The takeover will give the US firm control of a global and highly profitable sport that rakes in billions from advertisers and broadcasting rights.

Formula One-branded merchandise also brings in millions, but some F1 teams are plagued by financial problems and the sport has limited activity in the social and digital media platforms crucial to courting the next generation of fans.

In September Liberty said it would keep longtime Formula One mastermind Bernie Ecclestone, 86, but it also said it would install 21st Century Fox vice chairman Chase Carey as the sport’s new chairman.

Carey—eased out of power by a change of succession at Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp—has a proven record in expansive sport-media growth, and expertise in the value and exploitation of sports rights, notably in the US market.

The 20-race 2017 Formula One season gets underway in Australia on March 26 and ends in Abu Dhabi on November 26.

Carey said in September that he and Liberty were excited by the prospects in “developing markets” in the Americas and Asia, but stressed that the “established markets— the home and foundation of Formula One in Europe—are of critical importance.”

The takeover has already been welcomed by teams, with heavyweight McLaren calling it “a positive step.”

While the FIA must still formally approve the deal, president Jean Todt said in September that the governing body welcomes the investment “by a company that has such a broad portfolio of sports, media and entertainment businesses.”

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