Malone’s New F1 Fantasy

Formula E prix
Malone, restless as ever at 83, has been looking to re-create the magic he discovered when Liberty Media bought the commercial rights to Formula One in 2017. Photo: Justin Shin/Getty Images
John Ourand
June 13, 2024

Earlier this morning, John Malone’s Liberty Global announced that it was buying Warner Bros. Discovery’s 25 percent stake in Formula E, the F1 spinoff for electric cars, giving the entity a controlling 65 percent position. On a practical level, the deal made plenty of sense. Malone, who sits on the WBD board, knows that his protégé David Zaslav must sell off non-core assets to service their company’s nearly $40 billion in debt. As part of a much smaller deal, for instance, WBD recently sold the Global Cycling Network back to its original owners. 

But Malone, restless as ever at 83, has also been looking to re-create the magic he discovered when Liberty Media—Liberty Global’s separate sister company—bought the commercial rights to Formula One in 2017. Malone is currently on the lookout for mismanaged and underperforming global sports businesses that he can turn around quickly—a strategy he employed earlier this year when Liberty bought the motorcycle racing series Moto GP. (That deal is still awaiting regulatory approval in Europe.) Formula E, which has had a difficult time keeping top sponsors engaged, fits this deal thesis neatly.