F1 boss wants a ‘hell of a lot more than $20 billion’ to sell up

Thomas Maher
Liberty Media's Greg Maffei pictured with FIA's Mohammed Ben Sulayem. F1 Formula 1.

Liberty Media's Greg Maffei pictured with FIA's Mohammed Ben Sulayem. F1 Formula 1.

Greg Maffei has said Liberty Media would want a “hell of a lot more” than $20 billion to sell Formula 1 to an interested buyer.

Despite increasing the value of Formula 1 to almost four times the purchase price Liberty Media paid for the sport in 2016, CEO Greg Maffei has laughed off the $20 billion price tag that was allegedly offered by the Saudi Arabian PIF {Public Investment Fund} towards the end of 2022.

In January, rumours emerged that the Saudi Arabian PIF had made a bid to prise Formula 1 away from Liberty Media – rumours which kicked off plenty of controversy as FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem tweeted to urge caution over the valuation.

Greg Maffei outlines why Liberty Media won’t sell F1 just yet

This resulted in Formula 1 showing their displeasure with Ben Sulayem’s actions by penning a letter to the teams in which F1’s general counsel and Liberty Media’s chief legal and administrative officer wrote his comments overstepped the bounds of the FIA’s remit, and that he had “interfered” with Liberty’s commercial rights.

As the furore died down in the weeks after, there was never any formal confirmation as to whether the bid had been a genuine one, and Maffei has now revealed that Liberty Media would not have considered selling up for that price tag anyway.

Appearing on the Walker Webcast, Maffei was asked about Liberty Media’s $4.2 billion purchase of F1 and he explained that the current structure of ownership means that his corporation have no desire to sell up any time soon.

“We’re a C Corp, meaning that if we sell a division, we pay corporate level tax, and then any proceeds we would pay that get distributed to our shareholders they would, in addition, pay tax,” he said.

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“If we were to spin Formula 1 away, create a separate company and wait a sufficient [amount] of time, [and] have no plan or intent to sell – that asset could be sold down the road, and there would be no corporate-level tax.

“So what I [am] saying is, the way we are structured today, given that tax basis, we would not be sellers.

“If we wish to be sellers, or even consider it, you’d need to do a spin and, spinning it away, there are other reasons why we might do that – it’s not just to do a sale, but the way we are structured that would be very unattractive.

“I’ve said this publicly before, the Saudis have been partners on a couple of things – they have a race there. Aramco is a sponsor, but they never approached us.

“And, frankly, $20 billion would not be an attractive price. It’s trading for 17/18, so why 20? I’d want a hell of a lot more than that! We’re pretty bullish on the future.”

Greg Maffei reflects on Chase Carey’s contribution in building up F1

While Liberty Media are already sitting on a lucrative profit if and when they do decide to sell Formula 1, Maffei outlined the pride in which he and his organisation feel in how they have turned Formula 1 from a successful, albeit niche, sport into a mainstream juggernaut.

Praising the efforts of Chase Carey, Stefano Domenicali’s predecessor as F1 CEO, Maffei said Carey had identified the first crucial steps that helped secure F1’s incredible growth, namely securing a new Concorde Agreement with the teams, but admitted that, with hindsight, Carey might not have gotten the job had Liberty Media known more about the sport.

“There was so much we didn’t know about Formula 1 when we bought it,” he said.

“We had the right idea that this was a great global franchise that had been built for a long time but it had stalled over the five or 10 years prior to our purchase, hadn’t opened up and recognised a changed world of social media and how the media business had changed.

“It hadn’t been willing to invest in the United States, hadn’t really thought about marketing and research, so we were right about some of those ideas that this opportunity was there.

“But if I’d probably known all the things I know now, I’m not sure I would have led to Chase. Chase did an unbelievably good job, and we [and the F1 fans] owe Chase an unbelievable debt of gratitude.

“What I knew was that Chase would be a guy who would point a north star at the things that we needed. And really the most important thing was getting the teams on board for a new Concorde Agreement.

“Having an outsider who had credibility, who was implacable and thoughtful, built great relations and just kept pushing towards that north star of getting the Concorde Agreement done, Chase was the right person, absolutely for that. He did an amazing job.

“We knew his history, we’d controlled Direct TV when he ran it. He’d gone back to work for Rupert [Murdoch]. I had told him for several years ‘Chase, I got your next job’, because we knew we were working on Formula 1, and he would just roll his eyes at me and say, ‘Right, what do I know about motorsports’?

“I’d say, ‘What we need is a guy who’s going to set the right tone and drive the right direction’. We ended up hiring several people, including Ross Brawn and Shaun Bratches, who helped him dramatically. Ross, in particular, knew a lot about motorsports. But, really, Chase being able to point that north star was the absolute critical difference.”