Mon. Apr 22nd, 2024

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The long-standing owner of the Moto GP global motor-racing series is in advanced talks to sell the business for more than £3bn.

Sky News has learnt that Bridgepoint, which is the biggest shareholder in Moto GP’s parent company, Dorna Sports, is seeking a valuation of up to €4bn (£3.4bn) in its negotiations with prospective buyers.

Liberty Media, the owner of Formula One, is understood to be the frontrunner to buy Dorna, although it is reportedly facing competition from a number of rival bidders.

One source said this weekend that Bridgepoint was trying to seal an agreement to sell Dorna within a matter of weeks, although they cautioned that the process remained competitive and the timetable for a deal uncertain.

The eventual price could also deviate from the current €4bn target, they added.

Under Bridgepoint’s 18-year ownership, Moto GP has expanded internationally, with its commercial revenues driving a sharp increase in profitability.

The private equity firm owns close to 40% of Dorna, while a slightly smaller stake is held by Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB).

The remaining shares are held by Dorna’s management.

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This year’s Moto GP World Championship gets underway in Qatar next weekend, a week later than the F1 season, which stages its opening race in Bahrain later on Saturday.

Uniting Moto GP and F1 under common ownership would provide Liberty Media with the opportunity to derive financial and commercial synergies.

One motorsport executive said Liberty would be expected to seek to replicate the success it has enjoyed with F1 in the US if it succeeded in taking control of Dorna.

One question would lie in any potential competition probe into a deal.

Bridgepoint bought Moto GP’s parent in 2006 from CVC Capital Partners after the latter bought into F1, drawing scrutiny from EU watchdogs.

CVC’s ownership of F1, the majority of which took place in partnership with the sport’s veteran boss, Bernie Ecclestone, ranked among the most lucrative deals in private equity.

It eventually sold to Liberty Media in 2016, valuing the world’s most glamorous motorsport at $8bn.

For Bridgepoint, owning Dorna has also been incredibly lucrative.

It was reported to have valued the company at about €500m in 2006, subsequently selling a stake to CPPIB six years later.

A transaction which involved Bridgepoint’s stake being transferred from one of its funds to another in 2019 was reported to value Dorna at €2.5bn.

The identity of Liberty Media’s rivals in the race to acquire Dorna is unclear.

Spain’s Expansion newspaper reported this week that Apple, Disney and Netflix were also interested in a deal, although that interest was unconfirmed on Saturday.

Bridgepoint declined to comment, while Liberty Media did not respond to a request for comment.

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