8. John Malone

rsz_john-malone-1
Age 80
Net worth $7,9bn
Source of wealth Liberty Media
Nationality American
F1 involvement Commercial rights shareholder

John Malone is chairman and largest voting shareholder of Liberty Media, who own the commercial rights to Formula 1.

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He was the CEO of TCI Tele-Communications for 24 years (1973 – 1996). AT&T purchased TCI for $50bn in 1999.

Malone built his empire by purchasing multiple cable TV companies earning him the ‘Cable Cowboy’ nickname. US Vice President Al Gore famously compared him to ‘Darth Vader’.

His empire encompasses Sirius XM, Live Nation, the Atlanta Braves, and Virgin Media.

Malone has been in the spotlight with the recent merger of AT&T’s Warner Bros studio, CNN, and HBO businesses with Malone’s Discovery business, in which he holds a 28% stake.

Keeping his options open, he is also the major shareholder in the FormulaE series through his Liberty Global and Discovery businesses which invested back in 2015.

Malone is the largest private landowner in the United States, possessing upwards of 2.2 million acres.

He also owns Humewood Castle in Wicklow, Ireland, as well as hotels in Dublin.

Malone is an ardent philanthropist donating hundreds of millions of dollars to educational programmes. In 1997, he established the Malone Family Foundation, which operates the Malone Scholars Program.

Malone has a reputation as a ruthless operator, once described as a swamp alligator, content to lie secreted in the mud to let the prey come to him. Malone shuns the limelight and the usual billionaire toys, holidaying in a luxury motor home instead.

Malone’s first involvement in F1 was when he tried to purchase the series in 2014, losing out to CVC Capital Partners.

Undeterred, he eventually took control, purchasing F1 from CVC capital partners back in 2017, paying $4.6bn, valuing F1 at $8bn, and outbidding a consortium led by Stephen Ross, the Miami Dolphins owner, and the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar.

He appointed Chase Carey, the former executive vice-chairman of Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox, as Executive Chairman and CEO.

So began Liberty’s steep learning curve.

Malone and Carey had a vision for F1, which included increased sponsorship, embracing digital media, and expanding the race calendar to include “destination” venues.

Liberty gained credit with steering F1 through the global pandemic and, against all expectations, has kept the show on the road.

In an attempt to level the playing field, they have introduced a budget cap on team spending and new technical regulations, with all ten teams agreeing, eventually!

Criticism remains that Liberty continues to race in countries with poor human rights records, with the addition of Saudi Arabia to the calendar as a point in the case.

The lure for Liberty was the potential of the TV money, especially the untapped revenues from streaming services.

Fans have voiced opposition to the move away from ‘free to air’ coverage. To Liberty’s defence, this shift started in Bernie Eccleston’s time, but Liberty has chosen the same path hoping the Amazons and Apple TVs of this world will get their sizeable chequebooks out.

What influence does John Malone hold in F1?

To put it in simple terms, more than anyone else, by a long way!

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