By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) – Liberty Media’s Formula One takeover cleared another key hurdle on Wednesday with the sport’s governing body unanimously approving the deal.
The Paris-based International Automobile Federation (FIA) said in a statement that its World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) approved the change of commercial rights holder at an extraordinary meeting in Geneva.
“Liberty, Formula One Group and the FIA intend to collaborate to create a constructive relationship that will ensure the continued success and the development of the FIA Formula One World Championship in the long term,” it said.
Liberty Media, controlled by U.S. cable television mogul John Malone, acquired an initial 18.7 percent stake from private equity firm CVC Capital Partners and is due to complete a cash and shares deal by first quarter 2017.
CVC took control of the sport, a global championship with 20 races this year, in March 2006 and has since recouped its money many times over.
The Liberty deal, which needs the approval of the FIA and European anti-trust regulators, has been valued at $8 billion and represents a major shake-up in the sport.
Shareholders in Colorado-based Liberty Media voted on Tuesday to approve funding and changes related to the takeover.
The WMSC, which usually meets four times a year, is the governing body’s top decision-making body and includes president Jean Todt and Formula One’s 86-year-old commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone.
The FIA said Liberty Media representatives had made a detailed presentation of their strategy to the council.
“The members of the World Motor Sport Council then had the opportunity to ask questions about the specifics of the agreement, the ongoing working relationship with the FIA and Liberty’s plans for the sport,” it added.
“The World Motor Sport Council’s decision confirms the FIA’s belief that Liberty, as a renowned media organization with expertise in both sport and entertainment, is clearly well positioned to ensure the continued development of its pinnacle championship.”
The FIA holds a one percent stake in Delta Topco, Formula One’s holding company that owns the commercial rights.
The governing body said that it would be “dragged along in the sale process under the same conditions as CVC and all the other shareholders” and looked forward to working with the new owners and helping to develop the sport.
Liberty Media has interests in the Atlanta Braves baseball team, satellite radio service Sirius XM, entertainment group Live Nation and minority interests in Time Warner and Viacom.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ed Osmond and Toby Davis)