ON JANUARY 17th shareholders of Liberty Media Corporation, an American firm controlled by John Malone, a billionaire, are expected to approve a transaction that many hail as the sports deal of the decade. In September 2016 Liberty agreed to buy the Formula One (F1) motor-racing franchise from CVC, a private-equity group, for $8bn. F1, which generates annual revenue of $1.8bn, is now central to Liberty’s global plans: in a sign of the importance he attaches to the deal, Mr Malone has installed Chase Carey, a former president of Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox, as F1 chairman. The main Liberty subsidiary is to be renamed Formula One Group.

The deal has lots of attractions. For F1 it offers a potential solution to the problem of who will take over from Bernie Ecclestone, its 86-year-old impresario. There was no credible succession plan for the man whose wheeling and dealing has long held together the sport and its fractious collection of racing teams. With Mr Carey leading the search, there could be.

As for Liberty, F1 offers the sort of live, exclusive content it needs to lock in audiences that are peeling off to on-demand streaming...Continue reading