$8.5bn Formula 1 sale set to cross the finish line

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Formula One cars Image copyright AFP

The owner of Virgin Media is set to take control of Formula 1 in an $8.5bn (£6.5bn) deal.

John Malone’s Liberty Media is expected to make the first of two payments on Tuesday, according to a German magazine.

Auto Motor und Sport said the deal had been confirmed by F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone.

The sale would allow US private equity firm CVC Capital Parners, which has a 35% stake, to exit F1.

CVC has held a stake for the past decade but sold some of its holding in 2012.

A sale would end years of speculation and rumours about a potential change of ownership for the motor sport.

Other parties said to have considered buying into F1 include Qatar Sports Investments, which owns Paris Saint-Germain football club; and Stephen Ross, owner of the Miami Dolphins football team.

The Financial Times reported that Chase Carey, the executive vice-chairman of 21st Century Fox, would become chairman of F1.

Image copyright Getty Images

Image caption F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone (right) talks to Red Bull team principal Christian Horner

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, who is close to 85-year-old Mr Ecclestone, has been tipped in the past as his possible successor.

Mr Ecclestone, who owns a 5.3% stake, met with CVC co-chairman Donald Mackenzie and Daimler chief executive Dieter Zetsche, whose company owns the Mercedes team, at the Italian Grand Prix in Monza on Sunday. Mr Ecclestone declined to comment about the sale.

The potential takeover by Liberty Media was met with cautious optimism in F1 circles.

Image copyright Getty Images

CVC has been criticised for taking considerable profits from the sport, which has suffered from falling TV ratings in recent years.

The domination of the Red Bull and now Mercedes teams has made races more predictable. Mercedes team has won 13 of 14 races this season.

Given that Liberty is a media and entertainment group, analysts hope it will give more consideration to the spectacle offered by F1.

Mercedes team chief Toto Wolf said: “If there is an investor that wants to buy the shares it is good news for Formula One. Maybe it is good news that an American media company buys Formula One. There are things we can learn from the American way, particularly in digital areas.”

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