Bridgepoint Close To Sealing Deal For Infront, But MotoGP And WSBK Likely To Remain Separate

The deal which will see Bridgepoint Capital, the parent company of MotoGP series owner Dorna, take over Infront Sports and Media, the owners of the World Superbike series, is nearing completion. It is widely expected that Bridgepoint will finalize the purchase of Infront by the end of this month, though the contracts have yet to be signed. The price that Bridgepoint will pay for Infront is not know, though the Financial Times reported earlier that bids of between 600 million and 1 billion euros had been entered for the Swiss-based company, with Bridgepoint holding off the sovereign wealth funds from both Qatar and Abu Dhabi to clinch the deal.

Reaction in the MotoGP paddock at Brno was widely positive, with hopes that the deal would put an end to the slumbering conflict between MotoGP and World Superbikes. The MotoGP paddock has not taken the threats by the Flammini brothers - who run Infront Motor Sports, the subsidiary that runs WSBK - of legal action over the CRT teams very well. Senior figures inside the MotoGP paddock expressed the expectation that once both MotoGP and WSBK were under a single umbrella organization, such threats would be put aside. Those sources also told MotoMatters.com that they expected such a takeover to see the current World Superbike regulations more strictly enforced and the spec of the bikes taken back to something more closely resembling the production machines that they are supposed to be based on. The MotoGP paddock feels that the current generation of WSBK machines are more like racing prototypes than street motorcycles.

In the World Superbike paddock, however, fears remain that the takeover will bring about a diminution of WSBK's power and potentially even the end of the series, with the World Superbike class being merged with MotoGP, leaving perhaps only a Superstock-type class in its place. The more paranoid elements in the WSBK paddock even believe that the takeover has been orchestrated by Dorna, in an attempt to poach the manufacturers currently racing in WSBK but not MotoGP into the MotoGP series.

The truth of the matter is vastly more mundane, and has very little indeed to do with motorcycle racing. The price Bridgepoint paid for Dorna back in 2006 is believed to be around 550 million euros, a fraction of the 12 billion euros that Bridgepoint currently has invested. The price Infront paid FGSport for a stake in the World Superbike series, though unknown, is likely to be in the tens rather than hundreds of millions of euros, representing an insignificant part of the total of up to 1 billion euros Bridgepoint will be forking out for all of Infront Sports and Media. The more interesting part of the company for Bridgepoint is Infront's major stake in international soccer, with the Swiss company charged with selling the TV rights for the FIFA World Cup throughout Asia, as well as playing a major role in several European national competitions, and holding the rights for six of the seven Olympic winter sports. Those rights are commercially much more interesting than the rights of a couple of motorcycle racing series.

The most likely course of events - and one borne out by a report at Bikesportnews.com - is that the World Superbike series will be sold off once the deal has been completed. The new owners of the series are likely to be the same as the old owners, the Flammini brothers who held the commercial rights before selling out to Infront, and who still play a major role in WSBK. There is also good reason to believe that both motorcycle racing series will be sold off once Bridgepoint purchases Infront. The price that Bridgepoint paid for MotoGP is widely regarded as being well above the series' current market value, and Bridgepoint may want to capitalize on the combined selling power of Ducati and Valentino Rossi while the Italian is still racing in the series. It is believed that Rossi was a major factor in driving up the price back in 2006, and that the market value of MotoGP will drop significantly once he retires. Without Rossi, Bridgepoint could struggle to earn back their investment. Rossi is committed to at least one more season of racing in MotoGP, having a contract with Ducati to race through 2012. The expectation is that he will continue for at least another year after that, however, with 2014 or perhaps even 2015 a more likely retirement date.

While the purchase of Infront by Bridgepoint may be good for both Bridgepoint and Infront Sports and Media, those hoping that it will benefit motorcycle racing as a whole may well be bitterly disappointed.

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"While the purchase of Infront by Bridgepoint may be good for both Bridgepoint and Infront Sports and Media, those hoping that it will benefit motorcycle racing as a whole may well be bitterly disappointed."

If, ultimately both series were sold again, wouldnt it be nice if the aquiring Parties were as passionate about racing as they were about making money?

We can dream.

Total votes: 107

kinda like one of the American car series that run production bodied cars on the same track/same time with the prototypes. You'd probably have to ditch the lower half of the superbike field though.

Total votes: 132

no he's not. His star rose, it shone very brightly for a significant period of time and now it's a mere red dwarf. Other stars have eclipsed him. This is the natural order of things. I'm sure even money men realise this. I'm picking the GFC and our current slow asphyxiation recession might have had a bigger impact on the state of the sport and it's current market valuation.

Total votes: 122

I live in a country where motorcycle racing barely registers on the radar (except for the last Saturday in June, and in a few isolated pockets around the east and northeast of the country), and whenever I tell people what I do, they look at me blankly. Then I say "Valentino Rossi" and they say "Oh, him!" and the penny drops.

Love him or loathe him, Valentino Rossi IS bigger than the sport. He brings a lot of money into MotoGP, and the series pitfall has been to think that the money coming in has been because of the thrills of motorcycle racing, rather than the attraction of a figure of the stature of Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong, or Muhammad Ali. Such a figure is a curse, as they breed hubris in the sports' organizers.

And anyway, what you think or what I think is irrelevant. It's what venture capitalists and wealth funds, the kind of people who can stump up a couple of hundred million whenever they need to, think that matters. The market value is determined by how much money such people believe they can make from the sport. That is much easier with a figurehead, regardless of the results such a figurehead is booking.

Total votes: 108

The money is still there despite Tiger dropping outside the worlds top thirty and hemorrhaging sponsors.

O.K I grant you that Rossi's adoption by the masses has elevated the sports profile at a time it was screaming out for a star. Job done - winning races and pulling silly faces. No man can be greater than the game or there would be no game to play.

Total votes: 115

Doesn't matter how Tiger Woods is doing, it only matters that his name is associated with the sport. And golf has always done better than motorcycle racing because middle-aged men can go out and play golf with their business buddies and write it off on expenses. Not much business gets done in Turn 1 at Sears Point. In that respect, boxing is a better comparison, only really hardcore fans watching now. I actually have some interest in boxing and I couldn't tell you who the heavyweight champ of the world is. Barry Sheene is another example: interest in motorcycle racing in the UK waned dramatically after Sheene retired.

MotoGP and motorcycle racing in general will continue to benefit from the afterglow of Rossi for a few years after his retirement. Maybe there'll be another superstar rise up in the meantime, someone who will capture the imagination of the casual viewer and people with no interest in motorcycle racing. No sign of anyone yet, whatever the on-track merits of the current crop of racers. For the record, I rate the current crop as the best for at least 20 years, and you could make an argument that this is the best crop ever.

Total votes: 125

As I mentioned elsewhere, the number 1 rated cycling team, for whom Cavendish just won the green jersey at the Tour de France, is folding at the end of the year.
Two reasons:
1. In Europe, the general disgust at the doping history... ironically, just as it starts to get cleaned up;
2. In the US, the demise of Armstrong... even before most Americans realised how much he was a part of problem 1. He retired, no more super-human hero, no more interest. People complain because none of the current riders have the "courage" or "panache" to ride away from the pack up a mountain (ie, they aren't doping).

People want to believe in Superheroes... so they are good for business. It's what has corrupted cycling at the highest levels, it was too profitable to turn a blind eye to what was going on.

People who care about technical aspects of the bikes, or a realistic appreciation the already jaw-dropping skills of many of the riders, are relatively small in number. Just go read the comment threads here to see how much passion is vented in pointless pro/anti-Rossi debates...

Total votes: 123

David,

Has any of those non-racers who recognize the VR name but not the sport he participates in ever watched a race or purchased merchandise because of him? His name recognition alone does not do anything to the popularity of motoGP and many of his fans are fans to the extent that they don't watch the race when he is not running. That to me is not a motorcycle racing fan but a temporary marketing catch.

I don't understand why people think Rossi has done so much for the sport. In my view the sport has done a whole hell of a lot for Rossi: making him very rich and a hugely popular and known figure worldwide. He did manage to bring us spec tires, which in my mind was not only a complete betrayal of the company that was crucial to his 7 top level titles and 90 or so of his wins but also a step backwards in the prestige of GP racing.

I'm sure there are many riders who would be happy to have the sponsorship cash that one of VR's sponsor patches generates. But it is not available because instead of funding an entire team for a year the sponsors would rather get a patch on Rossi's leathers. I understand that it is the sponsor's decision where to spend their cash but how is the concentration of much of the second tier funding to one rider beneficial to the sport? Its not, it is beneficial to Rossi.

Before Rossi was racing I watched GP and other motorcycle racing and went to a race whenever I could. I behave the same in the Rossi age and will hopefully continue to do so long after he is no longer racing. What Rossi has done is give us good racing, but I can remember good racing before he was around. Sometimes I even see good racing in the AMA and I hope to see good racing after he is gone. As a matter of fact it is his job to give us good racing and he is lucky as hell to have a job like that!

I understand a lot of this sounds like Rossi bashing but it is not. He is a stellar rider but I think all of his skits and behind the scene manipulation actually detract from his legacy. His jovial on-camera persona is a mask, he is Machiavellian to an extreme and in the long run it will be difficult for MotoGP to reinstate its own identity after he is gone. It seems like Dorna took a page from recent the US corporate book: maximize short term profit at all costs and let the suckers holding the bag at the end of the line worry about it.

As far as the venture capitalists go, how should they value an entity that has its biggest personality on the decline and with 2-3 seasons left in a best case scenario? To me, the absence of Rossi is a long term financial liability to Dorna for whoever ends up owning it at the time.

Chris
http://moto2-usa.blogspot.com/

Total votes: 125

"many of his fans are fans to the extent that they don't watch the race when he is not running"

Since he has only missed a few races in his long career, last season after breaking his leg, your statement doesn't hold much water. Do you have actual statistical data to show the viewership numbers, the ticket sales figures, etc? I don't think you do, let's post facts and if you don't have them please remember that they are your opinions and state that.

"it is his job to give us good racing"

Actually it would be Dorna's job to give us good racing. The riders are there to win, the manufacturers are there to win, etc. Even when Stoner lays down blindingly fast laps and gets out 5,10, 15 seconds ahead of the next riders it's not his job to slow down so that we have a better race. What we sometimes forget is that this is a "Prototype" series and when one manufacturer figures out something (engineering wise) that gives them a great advantage... more power to them, that's what they're paid to do. We can't blame the riders or manufacturers for poor racing (in the sense that it's not as intense, edge of your seat drama), Dorna needs to create rules that bring the field closer. Has anyone been watching the Moto2 races? Those are turning out to be great races! Hopefully the new rules can bring us more riders on the grid and some closer racing.

Total votes: 127

As a fan of both Stoner and Rossi (yes, it IS possible!) I have to say that Rossi's role in making the recognition and acceptance of motoGp as an A-List sporting event is almost incalculable; brand Rossi has taken the sport from a fan-based niche market to a serious player for TV airtime across much of the world. As things stand I find that Stoner's riding generates more excitement for me but since my spectating time goes back to Hailwood I think I could be regarded as somewhat of a hard-core fan - as most of us here on this forum also are.

However the way that F1 has been marketed has created a more 'durable' product; the mystique of the show has entirely transcended individuals and it is fairly apparent when 'the show' hits town that a significant proportion of the 'celebrities' and associated shenanigans are there to be seen, not as any expression of any deep abiding interest in the sport as such. That in turn creates media attention which makes sponsorship and TV airtime availability more valuable and sought-after.

Dorna has rather shot itself in the foot by hanging off Rossi's coat-tails to the degree it has. It is now in the position of having to create new stories to capture the imagination, a frisson of excitement beyond just Rossi that resonates further than the hard-core fan base. It will take someone with far more imagination and flair than the upjumped auditor-gnome Ezpeleta to do that, yet the raw materials are there: the fastest, most exotic racing machines on the planet piloted by a group of incredibly-talented riders, racing with a visual connection to the skill of the individual on prominent display and the risk incredibly obvious. There are massive opportunities to build the sport beyond the appeal of Rossi, building on the foundation that has been created around Rossi.

Rossi HAS BEEN motoGp, in many ways -but it is time to realise that nothing is forever and start to move to the Rossi-less future while obviously acknowledging the huge boost to the sport that he has brought. There is no current plug-in replacement for Rossi as a marketing factor in terms of an individual, perhaps it is time to sell 'the racing' as the key attraction - or is that too radical a concept?

Total votes: 134

Lets not overplay the man too much. Rossi's rise and dominance of MotoGP has coincided with not only relatively weak opposition - in the early days at least, but from a viewing perspective especially the burgeoning motorcycle / scooter buying middle classes, of the large Asian countries in particular, together with the arrival of satellite television.

I'm pretty sure attendance numbers in the mature market GP's of Europe (England may be a perverse exception) haven't changed significantly. So he's sold a lot of yellow hats and tee shirts for his and Uncle Carmelo's benefit.........

Total votes: 123

says spectator numbers in the UK went up enormously when Rossi moved into 500's. Previously WSB pulled bigger crowds than MotoGP.

Possibly he didn't help numbers in Spain or even Italy, because those markets already had high awareness of bike racing (Spain in particular).

Arguing whether or not he did anything to improve the quality of the racing is irrelevant... for Dorna and their owners, the "marketing catches" are what count, they sell the TV ad slots and drive the price of transmission rights.

Even now he's uncompetitive, he's still centre of an enormous soap opera about the bike...

Total votes: 129

This coincided with Forgarty's career ending injury and the Brit motorcycling publics desire for a new hero. Rossi had ensconced himself in London at the time so being a winner he was 'adopted'. From my recollection the attendance figure for one Donnington British G.P of the late 1990's was down to around 29000 on race day. Piss poor.

To my mind the British fans are the most fickle. Mainland Europe still seems heavily biased towards MotoGP, whereas the Brits has equivocated far more between the two major series. This Rossi 'adoption' almost explains the blinkered, one eyed, golden balls stature with which many Brits hold the man too.

Total votes: 126

re: "However the way that F1 has been marketed has created a more 'durable' product"

it hasn't been marketed into being a more durable product i'm afraid it inherently IS a more durable product. :( motorcyclists and motorcycling only represent 3%-5% of the population. in contrast, carside economics represent a whopping 105% of the population.

Total votes: 106

So Bridgepoint is buying Infront Sports & Media for various Olympic & Soccer rights, but will likely sell Infront MOTOR Sports as an unfortunate byproduct to the same people who run it now. And they are willing to sell off MotoGP that they already own through Dorna at a loss, or perhaps a massive loss depending on Mr. Rossi's retirement plans.

As much as I love it, apparently ANY motorcycle racing series is equivalent to the proverbial redheaded stepchild for profit minded enterprises.

Total votes: 120

The FIM's weakness is the cause of problems in international motorcycle racing, imo. When the MSMA began applying pressure to the FIM to reboot WSBK and MotoGP, the FIM folded. Francesco Zerbi, like Jean-Marie Baellestre of the FIA, was seduced by the hollow promises of manufacturers and commercial rights companies who wanted to reinvent something that was making consumers happy.

I'm not necessarily decrying the move to 4-strokes, but allowing the MSMA to control the WSBK and FIM rulebooks was regrettable to say the least.

I also think people are underestimating the magnitude of this deal as it pertains to WSBK and MotoGP. The market knows that the future of MotoGP is unclear, and that Valentino Rossi's departure is imminent so cashing in on the status quo isn't possible. What better way to increase the value of MotoGP before sale, than to neuter WSBK and force BMW, Aprilia, and Kawasaki into MotoGP? That kind of nefarious business maneuver could net Bridgepoint hundreds of millions on their GP deal, while costing almost nothing in WSBK. The deal would make the MSMA and Dorna happy as well; especially if the WSBK contract is renegotiated and the MSMA regain control of the rulebook.

The result is the same for the fans, though--little reason to be excited about the possibilities.

Total votes: 111

In the end, the customer is always right. Even if they don't know what they are buying. As long as they pay. The masses pay to see Rossi do well. Some pay to see him do not as well (2nd-3rd) but when he crashes and burns, so to speak, nobody is watching at all. Everyone loses.

When Mick Doohan was running away with races and titles, WSB was gaining ground by leaps and bounds. Why? They had charismatic characters in WSB and the racing was good. People where saying Mick should quit when he was at the top of his game because the racing was boring.

Rossi never suffered this issue. It's not the riders, it's the people. It's the popularity people assign to certain riders. Fail to acknowledge and just watch as the fans leave in droves. Stoner may be the fastest man on the planet but dog shows and beach vollyball will beat Motogp ratings everytime without Rossi (in the short term).

Total votes: 103

If the mass of Rossi supporters leave because they aren't interested in racing without Rossi winning,what does this actually mean? Less sponsor money? It won't mean the end of racing. Who gives a toss if some hedge fund boys miscalculated on the value of the asset. Someone will end up buying the series at a bargain price. The best riders will still rise to the top.

I doubt that it will mean that a worldwide series of motorcycle racing will disappear. There are many people who are passionate about racing (rather than being passionate about Rossi) throughout the world. Look at WSBK, Moto 2 and BSB - chock full grids and not a Rossi in sight. The good ole' US of A seems to have a fair amount of racing that doesn't happened to be graced with Rossi's presence. It will adjust to a lower cost base, riders salaries will drop, tech levels will drop (which is what many fans claim they want). What will the problem really be? That it may become more afforable to race.... which may lead to more teams competing? Personally, I really enjoy the superstock racing. Not only does it produce great racing, but it really gives manufacturers an incentive to produce excellent road bikes.

Anyway, one must put David's articles (such as this one) in the perspective of his lack of objectivity concerning Rossi. He outed himself in a previous article where he tried to absolve Rossi of any blame for him performance problems this season by blaming it all on the Ducati's inherent design faults. The best thing about this site these days are the interesting technical insights from contributors such as GrahamB29.

Total votes: 112

If it was a general lowering of level, yes, that might be a good thing.

However the other possibility is that it could simply result in fewer participants... and the grid is already depressingly thin.

Two bikes per row for safety reasons soon?

Total votes: 121

I don't understand why you are questioning Davids objectivity concerning Rossi based on a story about the Ducati problems? All the Ducati riders are saying the same thing about the front end feel of the GP11 (and is Rossis case the GP11.1).

Stoner was successful on the GP7 that had no CF in the "frame". After that, Casey went backwards and had huge problems losing the front on the GP9 and GP10 which had the same type of CF-solution as the GP11's.

Do you belive Rossi lost all of his skills and motivation over the winter?

Total votes: 108

@ sandstream: You have conveniently forgotten that the GP9/10 woes that Stoner experienced also coincided with the introduction of the single tyre rule. I'm not saying the Ducati doesn't have issues, but I firmly believe a different construction/compound (say more like the 08 Bridgies that Stoner used) would certainly help close the gap substantially to Honda & Yamaha. Of course, Ducati has no excuse as the manufacturer has to build a bike to work with the spec tyres. Who knows what issues the GP7 would have exhibited on the current tyres.

So the question could be - Did Ducati's problems appear with the introduction of CF or spec tyres? or both! Food for thought......

Total votes: 115

I belive the problem is that Ducati didn't listen enough to what Stoner had to say about the GP9 and GP10. If it's the tyres or the GP11 that's the problem doesn't matter because the biggest problem is that Ducati have made a bike that no one can win on this season. Stoner did the right thing to abondon ship!

Total votes: 115

My objectivity is constantly being called into question. The Rossi fans believe I am a die-hard Stoner fan with a grudge against their beloved champion. The Stoner fans believe I am a die-hard Rossi fan who has been blinkered by the Italian's charisma. The Pedrosa and Spies fans wonder why, in their opinion, I barely mention them. The Lorenzo fans criticize me for not praising the achievements of the Spaniard.

Everybody thinks I'm biased. Which means that I've probably got the balance about right.

Total votes: 112

The moment you expressed you felt Rossi WOULD (not could, perhaps, or might, but WOULD) win Championships (plural not singular) if RCV mounted. Together with the dismissive way in which you absolved Rossi of any responsibility regarding his failure to perform on the Desmosedici, despite various statements to the contrary by the man himself and his need to adapt.

I still love your site, commentary and analysis though!

Total votes: 118

... is that everything you say gets taken utterly literally. I do believe that Rossi would be competitive on an RCV and would be in with an equal chance of the title, along with Casey Stoner, Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa. Obviously, I should have been far more clear, as those who are convinced of my utter one-sidedness naturally leapt on a slap-dash posting as a Freudian slip lifting the veil to display my yellow heart. Any statements I make on either side of the argument are interpreted as proof of my lack of objectivity. It is called confirmation bias

Total votes: 120

David, I'm more than happy to be a subscriber.
I'm more than happy when you delete/edit/moderate some over the top posts.

Bias, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

Fact is, no one, apart from Casey Stoner has had a degree of success on the Ducati, whatever the iteration.
What does that say?

Stoner has a unique talent. Fact. Please remember, I used the word unique.

From Ducati's point, just how successful is the bike if only one rider can be successful on it?
The Ducati had to change. As someone else said, perhaps Stoner was the worst thing for Ducati, insofar as he lulled them into a false sense of success.

As an Aussie, I'm a fan of Casey and I wish him every success. However, I appreciate and enjoy the talents of Rossi, Dani, Jorge, in fact all the riders.

In simple terms, I love watching bikes go around in circles.

And I have long enjoyed David's passion for the sport, and his writing skills.
So, let's have more love, less vitriol.
As we used to say, make love, not war.

Total votes: 115

bridgepoint, bridgeSTONE, infront, out front hailing a taxi, dorna, lorna doone, the flamminis, ezpelata, the FIM, FM radio, the MSMA... ugh, my head's spinning. i don't know who the hell owns what...? one too many names and sub-names. sounds like one too many hands stirring the pot and playing "grab-ass" with the money.

Total votes: 118

vegasjon "Do you have actual statistical data to show the viewership numbers, the ticket sales figures, etc? I don't think you do,"

If I remember rightly there was an article about the Television viewership in Italy declining while Rossi was out injured last year. And by a fair amount if I remember rightly,which unfortunately means that there were a lot of people watching just for Rossi instead of MotoGP which is probably a sad indictment on Italian fans. I've watched GP racing since the Sheene days personalities come and go the constant is good racing and isn't that what we are all after.

Total votes: 118