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McLaren Racing CEO: F1 Is ‘Just Getting Started’ in North America

  • McLaren’s Zak Brown credits Netflix, which plans to livestream a celebrity golf tournament with F1 drivers.
  • Bahrain’s sovereign wealth fund recently bought McLaren shares worth $510M from Saudi Arabia's PIF and Ares.
As Hollywood stars invest in F1, McLaren's Zak Brown says the league's U.S. presence is only beginning.
Syndication: Desert Sun

As Formula 1 continues to set records for U.S. broadcast viewership, McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown sees this growth as only the beginning for the sport—whose American popularity has surged since Netflix’s F1 Drive to Survive docuseries debuted in 2019.

“Formula 1’s a huge business and what happens off the track can be pretty exciting. It’s a pretty cutthroat business. It’s big money and it’s global, lots of politics, and I think Netflix brought that forward,” Brown said. “You saw the different personalities in the sport and how the sport operates. And then of course Miami [Grand Prix] came and now we’ve got Las Vegas coming. So I think in many ways Formula 1 is just getting started in North America.”

Brown made his comments during a recent panel at the Tribeca Festival in New York City, which was sponsored by McLaren’s crypto partner OKX. UK-based McLaren’s majority shareholder is Bahrain’s sovereign wealth fund Mumtalakat, which expanded its ownership last week by buying $510 million worth of McLaren shares from Saudi Arabia’s PIF sovereign wealth fund and Ares Management. 

In 2020, U.S-based MSP Sports Capital bought a 15% stake in McLaren that, valued its racing division at $746 million. F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali said earlier this month that teams have been refusing investment and buyout offers worth “almost billions” as the league’s business booms with historic U.S. television ratings for races on ESPN and ABC. 

U.S. private equity firm Red Bird Capital and Hollywood stars Ryan Reynolds, Rob McElhenney, and Michael B. Jordan financed a $220 million investment made this week into the Renault-owned Alpine Formula 1 team. The deal valued Alpine at around $900 million. 

Brown, a focal character in Drive to Survive, could see Formula 1 further boosted by Neftlix’s debut into live sports through a reported Las Vegas celebrity golf tournament that’s set to include pro golfers and F1 drivers.

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