The long-awaited sale of the Formula One may finally be nearing the finish line.
A number of bidders including British broadcaster Sky PLC are circling Formula One and a winner of the auction could emerge in the next few weeks, according to people familiar with the matter. A deal could value the racing series at around $8 billion or more.
Other possible buyers participating in the process include a team of Discovery Communications Inc. and John Malone’s Liberty Global PLC, the people said.
Should there be a deal, it isn’t clear how much of the famed motor-racing company would be sold.
Formula One holds the eponymous races in cities around the world, from Monte Carlo to Kuala Lumpur. The auto-racing franchise markets lucrative television rights and sponsorships for the popular races and negotiates contracts with venues and teams, among other functions. In 2006, private-equity firm CVC Capital Partners bought majority control of Formula One. It has since reduced its stake to around 35%.
CVC has flirted with the possibility of selling its stake for years but for various reasons hasn’t struck a deal.
One complication was a trial Formula One’s colorful founder Bernie Ecclestone faced in Germany related to charges of bribery and fraud. A court in 2014 dropped the case against Ecclestone, who is known as “Supremo” in Formula One circles, in return for a payment of $100 million.
Ecclestone is a former used-car salesman who built the race into a powerful marketing force in the late 1970s. The octogenarian remains chief executive of the company. Today, the stars in the sport include Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel.
Rights to show popular sporting events are considered increasingly valuable for channel distributors and advertisers amid a rise in ad-skipping technology and web-based entertainment.
Sky has a vast pay-TV business, with more than 20 million customers in Italy, Germany, Austria, the U.K. and Ireland. It is a big investor in television content too, with a programming budget of more than £ 4.6 billion ($6.1 billion), according to the company’s website. Its market value currently stands at nearly £ 16 billion.
21st Century Fox Inc., which holds a 39 percent stake in Sky, shares common ownership with News Corp, the owner of The Wall Street Journal.
Discovery, whose properties include Discovery Channel, TLC and Animal Planet, has been trying to build its sports-content holdings abroad, buying control of European sports entertainment group Eurosport International in 2014.
Liberty Global is a global media and content-distribution giant. It has struck a number of content deals in recent years, including one for the U.K.’s All3Media, together with Discovery.
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