MotoGP could be under new management in the very near future as owner Bridgepoint has hired bankers Lazard to advise on a fast sale.
Bridgepoint bought Dorna, MotoGP’s parent company, more than ten years ago and also acquired WorldSBK when it purchased InFront. Dorna has already paid out hundreds of millions in dividends over the past decade.
In 2012, Bridgepoint sold a 39 per cent stake in the business to CPPIB, the Canadian pension fund investment group. Bridgepoint owns around 40 per cent of the business.
It has been previously reported that CVC is interested in re-acquiring the business, which it sold to Bridgepoint in 2006 for about €500m. The sale was part of a condition to CVC’s acquisition of Formula One.
Any sale of Dorna may value the Madrid-based sports company at well over €1bn including debt. Under Bridgepoint’s ownership, Dorna has completed at least three dividend recapitalisations, whereby new debt is used to return cash to its shareholders.
Likely buyers could be previous owners CVC or other investment companies looking to buy sporting rights.
This would, no doubt, go down well with the present management if, as 20% owners, they were to stay on. The view of CPPIB is unknown but having paid £400m for their 39% stake from Bridgepoint six years ago they will be seeking to end up at least doubling their money.
But a buyer will be looking for growth and after a terrific few years when MotoGP has never been better and the envy of the motor sport world it may be more difficult to repeat that performance.
However, it is also becoming increasingly attractive for a media company to buy content which Liberty has done with F1. So the other giant US media business Discovery, owner of Eurosport, might well be a candidate. They have the broadcasting rights to World SBK and BSB, sniffed around MotoGP before BT renewed their contract and are sports owners in the US.
But after paying £8billion for for F1, Liberty has found that succeeding Bernie Ecclestone was rather tougher than they expected. Their objectives of reducing costs to the teams has not been welcomed by the richest who like things as they are. And some circuits, including Silverstone, are saying we can’t afford your prices any more. While the idea of staging more races has not been welcomed by Lewis Hamilton.
And a major source of revenue, sponsorship, is also under threat. The big media payers, pay TV operators like Sky, previously welcomed because they paid fortunes, are now limiting the value to sponsors because of their relatively small audiences.
The solution is live streaming, ie access via the Internet to billions of mobile devices without any constraint from regulators. Netflix can afford to spend fortunes on film production with such large audience potential. Live sport provides the same, if not greater, opportunity.
So it may be no mere coincidence that the Spanish broadcasting rights for MotoGP are, apparently, switching from Movistar to a British live streaming business DAZN whose parent company is Perform, owned by media billionaire Len Blavatnik. Who’s to say that Netflix or Amazon won’t be knocking on Mr Ezpeleta’s door.