04 Oct 2020

CHASE CAREY – HIS LEGACY ON LEAVING F1

Prior to his appointment as CEO of the Formula One Group in 2017, Chase Carey held key roles at a number of broadcasting organisations with Fox and News Corporation. Over his career he has built a reputation for taking on control of brands and building their profiles and audiences. His reputation was such that before he left News Corporation it was rumoured that he would become Rupert Murdock’s successor.

Following the recent announcement of Stefano Domenicali as the new President and CEO of Formula 1, we look back on Carey’s tenure as Formula 1 CEO and what his legacy will be.

With the acquisition by Liberty and its aspirations to grow Formula 1 into new markets, Carey joined with a particular remit to grow the brand and audience in the US. CVC Capital Partners purchased Formula 1 back in 2014 but did little to improve and promote the sport. Under its ownership, CVC had leveraged F1’s revenues, billions of pounds of which went out the door through dividends and financial dealings.

Liberty came to the table with the intention of taking Formula 1 in a direction that Bernie Ecclestone just didn’t understand or embrace. By increased sponsorship and maximising the exposure of the brand and all its racing assets through digital media, Liberty saw a vision for the future of the sport that meant a new global presence with an expansion of the race calendar to include “destination” venues.

Using its experience gained through ownership of US sports franchises and event businesses, Liberty and Carey in particular could see the potential of additional digital media channels and new and engaging content on race weekend and also in between.

Some of the key F1 stakeholders, such as Toto Wolff, Christian Horner, and Helmut Marko were sceptical, but 3 years later and it’s fair to say Carey has pretty much delivered on both Liberty’s and his personal business objectives.

That said it’s not all been plain sailing with many in the sport critical at the time of Carey’s appointment as CEO, citing his lack of racing pedigree.

It’s true Carey wasn’t a racer. He was a media man who had spent most of the last 30 years working within Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

Carey’s first stint at News Corp was with Fox where over 10 years he held the posts of Chief Operating Officer and Chief Executive, and successfully guided the launch of its Sports and News channels. He also served as NewsCorp COO before joining News Corps satellite broadcasting acquisition DirecTV, where he served as its CEO.

Before he left DirecTV in June 2009, during which time News Corp had sold its stake in DirecTV to Liberty Media, Carey had hit all his objectives and returned the business to profit. Upon leaving he returned to News Corp as its President and COO as well as the post of Deputy Chairman.

His star was continually on the rise at News Corp and whilst the rumours of him succeeding Rupert Murdoch proved untrue, Carey was announced as the COO of 21st Century Fox, the legal successor of News Corporation and the owner of most of its film and television properties, News Corporation’s print media and Australian assets being spun off as News Corp.

In 2015, Carey was reassigned as executive co-chairman, while James Murdoch became CEO. Carey resigned this position in July 2016 to become a consultant to Fox.

Following Liberty’s takeover of Formula 1 and once he’d managed to jettison Bernie Ecclestone from the business, Carey started the role out of the plan to expand Formula 1’s reach, both in new media channels and also regionally, looking to expand the calendar with races in new territories.

This proved tougher than expected but a return to the legendary Dutch Zandvoort circuit, and a new race in Vietnam showed momentum.

Liberty, committed to securing new sponsors for Formula 1, were successful in 2020 announcing a 10 year £400m deal with Saudi based Aramco Oil and Gas. Carey also secured a 5 year, £80m deal with Interregional Sports Group, the first gambling partner ever to work with Formula 1, and as an industry Ecclestone had always avoided, it further demonstrated Liberty’s  and Cary’s vision to break with tradition and provide further engagement opportunities with its audience through in-race betting.

Focusing on his contribution to racing and entertainment, and we see probably the most positive achievements during Carey’s time at the F1 helm.

With the criticism from some quarters that he’s not a racer, it’s clear Carey had no illusion of such when he made no delay in hiring Formula 1 veteran Ross Brawn as Managing Director of Motorsport and Technical Director of Formula 1. Brawn, in turn brought his old race engineer Rob Smedley on board in the key role as Head of Data Science, responsible for the development of how the technical side of race strategy can be better communicated graphically to its global audience. This appointment yet again underlined Liberty’s commitment to spectators on a global scale.

Carey followed this up with the establishment of new technical regulations and a new historic cost cap to bring some parity to the scope within which teams can develop cars.

However, his two biggest achievements are likely to be the signing of the new Concorde Agreement which he had some foresight over, and the steering Formula 1 through the COVID-19 pandemic and successfully delivering a credible season.

The new Concorde Agreement will create a more even playing field for the grid and hopefully a more competitive F1. With the precarious position some of the teams currently find themselves in, the importance of the agreement cannot be underestimated.

Carey admitted that “the task was more difficult than anticipated. Unlike leading US sports where franchises agree to work for the common good, F1 consists of 10 teams at war with each other and operating with differing budgets and aims.”

With regard to the current pandemic, Melbourne wasn’t the sports finest hour, but Carey and his team bounced back against all odds to deliver a potential 17 race season.

Only time will ultimately tell what Carey’s stint as head of Formula 1 will have on its future, but it is absolutely fair to say when he hands over the keys to Stefano Domenicali in January, he will be leaving it in better shape than he found it.

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ianhucklesby

Editor-in-Residence, JDC Promotions Media Centre