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Give Me Liberty

Malone & Co. may not have another F1 on their hands—that would be striking gold twice in a decade—but they’ve probably got a winner, regardless. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP via Getty Images
John Ourand
April 1, 2024

Back in ye olde days of 2016, media impresario John Malone made one of the least appreciated masterstroke deals of his long and storied career. His Liberty Media, which was then run by Greg Maffei, acquired the commercial rights to Formula One, the cliquish racing competition that seemed to be run as some sort of multibillion-dollar boutique or European heirloom. 

At the time, of course, this deal was a real head-scratcher. The rights business for the international open-wheel championship had been run by British billionaire Bernie Ecclestone for four decades, and its economics had been mismanaged and atrophied: Revenue was dropping, media deals were largely visionless, and sponsorship opportunities had desiccated. Perhaps most importantly, American interest in the sport had stalled. So Liberty brought in sports media veteran Sean Bratches as managing director of commercial operations and gave him the remit to turn this shit around.