F1 Formula One Bernie Ecclestone era of Formula 1 is over.
MEDLAND: Welcome to the post-Bernie world
Monday, 23 January 2017
Chris Medland / Images by Liberty & LAT
The Bernie Ecclestone era of Formula 1 is over.
Just think about that for a second.
Just under 40 years since he became chairman of the Formula One Constructors' Association (FOCA), taking control of many of the commercial aspects of the sport, Ecclestone has been replaced as chief executive officer of Formula 1.
A lot has happened in that time. The sport has grown to become a massive global business, given an enterprise value of $8.0 billion by Liberty Media's takeover.
With races in five continents, and lucrative television deals, it would be easy to sing Ecclestone's praises for the rest of this piece. And while he deserves huge credit for the way he has built up the sport, his replacement as CEO by Chase Carey is a move that F1 needs.
At 86 years of age, there is no criticism in saying that Ecclestone is no longer the right man to lead the sport forward. He found a formula to make money - divide and conquer, selling races to the highest bidder both in hosting and television terms - and did it well. But F1 has stagnated. Regulation changes, on numerous occasions hailed as the magic wand to save the sport, could only get so far in a model where the rich teams were rewarded and the small teams fought for the scraps.
Television audiences have dropped - although that can in part be attributed to the changing way in which fans consume sport - while the historic races that are so central to F1's heritage have struggled to secure long-term futures. This year Germany should be celebrating its third drivers' champion. It can't afford to host a race in order to do so.
Nico Rosberg's shock retirement meant that celebration would not have occurred anyway, but he was the first to respond to the official announcement of Liberty's restructuring by Tweeting: "Bernie, mega job! But a change has been overdue. Mr. Carey, all the best in making our sport awesome again."
And it's those last two words that are so crucial right now.
Many fans and drivers don't feel Formula 1 is at the same level it used to be. Fernando Alonso cites the mid-2000s as the peak, with tobacco sponsorship helping to fuel an era of excess, but Liberty has not purchased the sport based on past glories. It has done so because it sees huge potential.
The new owners believe F1 can be so much better, and so do so many within the sport. There will be dissenters – including those whose close ties to Ecclestone placed them close to the seat of power - but the majority now stand looking ahead to an exciting new era.
It seems strange to think Ecclestone is no longer in charge, that his powers have been removed. Some of his more loyal supporters still claim he will be too hard to replace. Of course it won't be easy, but the immediate announcement of Ross Brawn and Sean Bratches in top roles - to oversee the sporting and commercial sides respectively - show Liberty's intent. When doing a deal of this size, you don't mess around. Liberty has done its homework, concluded the deal quickly, and is now acting decisively.
That said, to expect immediate change would be doing a disservice to Bernie.
Yes, there are fundamental flaws. The much-maligned revenue distribution, the rising costs forcing the most iconic venues to reconsider their ability to host races, the general predictability of the pecking order under stable regulations to name but a few. But if they were easy to fix, Ecclestone would have done so by now.
There have been occasions where Ecclestone has pointed the finger of blame at himself, admitting that he created a bad financial model for the teams by entering into bilateral agreements until 2020 that reward the likes of Ferrari, Mercedes, Red Bull, McLaren and Williams more heavily than the rest with extra payments.
Regardless of the rights and wrongs of those deals, they are in place until 2020 and Liberty cannot simply tear them up. They can build for the future, of course, but from this point on, significant change will take time.
Revised deals can be negotiated with circuits to protect the races Liberty wants to protect. New ones can be signed in the regions the owners want to expand - such as North America - but even that will be restricted by existing contracts for current venues.
The sporting regulations are set for 2017, and the power units are set to stay until 2020. After such huge investment for all the teams - to the extent one of the 11 is currently in administration - there is not going to be a radical overhaul in the near future. Perhaps the new ownership structure will inspire confidence in would-be Manor investors to get involved but, on track at least, the coming season would have followed a very similar path regardless of who owns the sport.
Liberty is thinking long-term, and that means it will take time to make decisions. The arrival of Brawn brings in a highly-respected figure with recent knowledge of the sport and an overview of what can make it successful from a sporting point of view. He's also a racer at heart, which is a crucial element.
While Carey has become CEO, it is Bratches who essentially takes over Ecclestone's role as he works on the commercial side of the sport. But both new arrivals will need time to get comfortable and work out their own strategies for improving their respective areas.
It's impossible to see any of those three men - Carey, Brawn or Bratches - still in their roles in 40 years time, and that's what makes Ecclestone's achievements so remarkable. He should be respected and praised, but the main focus should be on the future.
The big change has finally arrived, even if the full effects are unlikely to be felt for some time.
Brawn appointed in top F1 role by Liberty
Monday, 23 January 2017
Chris Medland / Image by LAT
Ross Brawn has been appointed managing director, motor sports to oversee the sporting aspect of Formula 1 following the takeover by Liberty Media.
Soon after confirmation of the deal, Liberty also confirmed two new recruits at the top of the sport, with former Mercedes and Ferrari technical director Brawn looking after the sporting side and ex-ESPN executive Sean Bratches named as managing director of commercial operations.
"I am delighted to welcome Ross back to Formula 1," Carey said. "In his 40 years in the sport, he's brought his magic touch to every team with which he has worked, has almost unparalleled technical knowledge, experience and relationships, and I have already benefitted greatly from his advice and expertise.
"I am thrilled Sean is joining Formula 1. Sean was a driving force in building ESPN into one of the world's leading sports franchises. His expertise and experience in sales, marketing, digital media, and distribution will be invaluable as we grow Formula 1.
"I look forward to working with Ross and Sean, as well as key current executives including Duncan Llowarch, our CFO, and Sacha Woodward Hill, our General Counsel, the FIA, Bernie and Liberty as we work together to make Formula 1 the best it can be for the teams, promoters and fans for years to come."
Brawn has been out of F1 since leaving Mercedes at the end of the 2013 season having previously been team principal and won the drivers' and constructors' championship with his eponymous team in 2009. After acting as a consultant for Liberty since September, the 62-year-old will now take on a full-time role.
"It's fantastic to be returning to the world of Formula 1," Brawn said. "I've enjoyed consulting with Liberty Media these last few months and I'm looking forward to working with Chase, Sean and the rest of the Formula 1 Teams to help the evolution of the sport. We have an almost unprecedented opportunity to work together with the teams and promoters for a better F1 for them and, most importantly, for the fans."
Bratches has been at ESPN for nearly three decades and Liberty highlights how "his contributions helped to fuel tremendous growth in ESPN's brand and revenue." He will take control of a number of areas formerly looked after by Ecclestone, while looking at avenues for F1 to expand into.
"I'm very excited to be joining Formula 1 and contribute to the continued growth of this extraordinary global brand and sport," Bratches said. "Formula 1 is one of few truly global tier one sports, and I am encouraged by the manifold opportunities to materially grow the business, work closely with current and future sponsors, race circuits, television rights holders as well as create next generation digital and on-site race experiences to best serve the Formula 1 fans."
Both appointments are effective immediately.
Liberty completes F1 takeover, Ecclestone removal official
Monday, 23 January 2017
Chris Medland / Image by LAT
Liberty Media has announced the completion of its takeover of Formula 1, with Bernie Ecclestone being replaced as the sport's chief executive by Chase Carey (pictured at left, above, with Ecclestone).
Following confirmation came from Liberty as it announced it has finalized the acquisition of F1 in a deal that values the sport at $8 billion. The necessary approvals for the takeover were received last week, and Liberty has immediately moved to replace Ecclestone as CEO, saying Carey takes on the role in addition to being chairman. Ecclestone has been appointed chairman emeritus, with Liberty adding he "will be available as a source of advice for the board of F1."
Ecclestone says he is "proud" of the work he has done and believes Liberty will prove to be good owners of the sport in the long-term.
"I'm proud of the business that I built over the last 40 years and all that I have achieved with Formula 1, and would like to thank all of the promoters, teams, sponsors and television companies that I have worked with," Ecclestone said. "I'm very pleased that the business has been acquired by Liberty and that it intends to invest in the future of F1. I am sure that Chase will execute his role in a way that will benefit the sport."
Greg Maffei, president and CEO of Liberty Media Corporation, praised Ecclestone for his work in making F1 such a profitable business.
"We are delighted to have completed the acquisition of F1 and that Chase will lead this business as CEO," Maffei said. "There is an enormous opportunity to grow the sport, and we have every confidence that Chase, with his abilities and experience, is the right person to achieve this. I'd like to thank Bernie Ecclestone, who becomes Chairman Emeritus, for his tremendous success in building this remarkable global sport."
Carey himself is looking forward to taking further control of the sport in order to help grow it in future, having spent the past four months understanding F1's strengths and weaknesses.
"I am excited to be taking on the additional role of CEO," Carey said. "F1 has huge potential with multiple untapped opportunities. I have enjoyed hearing from the fans, teams, FIA, promoters and sponsors on their ideas and hopes for the sport. We will work with all of these partners to enhance the racing experience and add new dimensions to the sport and we look forward to sharing these plans overtime.
"I would like to recognize and thank Bernie for his leadership over the decades. The sport is what it is today because of him and the talented team of executives he has led, and he will always be part of the F1 family. Bernie's role as Chairman Emeritus befits his tremendous contribution to the sport and I am grateful for his continued insight and guidance as we build F1 for long-term success and the enjoyment of all those involved."
01-25-2017 08:46 AM
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