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SBD Global/February 4, 2014/Leagues and Governing Bodies

U.S. Cable Billionaire John Malone Reportedly In Talks To Purchase Minority Stake In F1

U.S. cable billionaire John Malone has "approached the principal shareholder in Formula One about buying a stake in the motor racing series, in a move that could radically alter the relationship between media companies and the owners of live sports rights," according to Chassany, Blitz & Mance of the FINANCIAL TIMES. Sources "familiar with the matter" said that the "chairman of Liberty Global and Liberty Media has held preliminary talks with CVC Capital Partners," which owns about 35% of F1. Any deal is "expected to value the motorsport" at more than $9B including debt. Malone's Liberty Global has spent almost $30B on "European cable assets in the past two years while Liberty Media is the driving force" behind a $61B battle to "control Time Warner Cable" and consolidate U.S. cable. Any "move into sports rights ownership would give his expanding empire an advantage over rivals" such as Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., BT and "others who spend billions of dollars to secure the rights to broadcast live sport." It would also "intensify the rivalry" between Malone and Murdoch, who made an "unsuccessful pitch to buy F1 three years ago." F1 boasts a global TV audience of about 450 million viewers (FT, 2/3). In N.Y., Claire Atkinson wrote while the talks are "in the early stages and could eventually fall apart, the purchase of the global open-wheel racing circuit would put Malone on the other side of the table when it comes to sports rights fees." A source said F1 "could be used to drive" Eurosport, as Discovery last month announced that it was increasing its stake in Eurosport from 21% to 51%. Malone controls 29% "of the voting power" at Discovery. Liberty Media also owns the MLB Atlanta Braves (N.Y. POST, 2/3).
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