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Liberty Media’s History of Revving Up Success Bodes Well for MotoGP

  • The Formula One owner looks to build its already-growing motor-sports presence.
  • Clark County, Nev., posts a series of robust fiscal numbers from the Las Vegas GP.
Dustin Safranek-USA TODAY Sports

Motorcycle racing is hardly the most popular attraction for most fans, even among motor-sports enthusiasts. But Liberty Media—the owner of Formula One and still a significant factor in the newly independent Atlanta Braves—believes its extensive resources and operational expertise can bring the sport to an entirely different level.

Liberty Media completed Monday an acquisition of Dorna Sports, the exclusive commercial rights holder to MotoGP, widely viewed as the world’s top motorcycle racing series. The deal places an equity value of $3.8 billion on the operation Liberty Media is acquiring from investment manager Bridgepoint and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. MotoGP will be 86% held by Liberty Media, with MotoGP management retaining the rest.

MotoGP, which is set to host 21 motorcycle races across 17 countries in its 2024 season, will be folding into Liberty Media’s Formula One Group tracking stock. Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta will remain in his position, as he has since 1994. 

Liberty Media expects to close the deal by the end of calendar year 2024, subject to regulatory approvals. But once done, the company is aiming to achieve a similar business escalation for MotoGP, where riders can often exceed 220 miles per hour, as what has occurred in the last two years for F1. MotoGP generated $522 million in revenue last year and $192 million in adjusted earnings.

“Opportunities like this are difficult to find and are incredibly attractive,” Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei said in a conference call with financial analysts. “MotoGP is a perfect fit for Liberty Media. … This is a league-level asset, which means there are centralized commercial rights and generates control over the ecosystem and the potential for excellent profitability. We hope to leverage Liberty’s experience with F1, the Braves, and what’s evolving in the media landscape to accelerate the growth of MotoGP.”

The acquisition also adds to a broader Liberty Media portfolio that includes a 30% equity stake in Live Nation, majority control of satellite radio company SiriusXM, and full ownership of sports and entertainment ticket and hospitality company QuintEvents. 

Regulatory approval of a combined F1-MotoGP holding, however, might not be a sure thing. Prior F1 owner CVC Capital Partners, who sold that property to Liberty Media in 2017, gained European Commission approval for its original purchase in ’06 on the condition that it sell Dorna. 

Vegas Bump

Clark County, Nev., meanwhile, recently released a report detailing some of the fiscal impacts from last November’s much-discussed debut of the Las Vegas Grand Prix. While economic impact studies from any sports event remain the subject of significant debate, the county said the race generated $77 million in tax revenues for state and local governments, net visitor spending of $501 million, and an average spend of more than $4,100 per incoming fan, a number more than triple the comparable figure for all Las Vegas visitors.

Numbers like this help demonstrate why Las Vegas is all but certain to remain a force on the F1 calendar, despite a significant disruption to locals and millions in lost revenue to area businesses due to the race.

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