MotoGP Owner Bridgepoint Acquires WSBK

September 2, 2011
Bart Madson
By Bart Madson
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Bashing away at the MotoUSA keyboard for nine years now, Madson lends his scribbling and editorial input on everything from bike reviews to industry analysis and motorcycle racing reports.

European private equity firm Bridgepoint has announced the purchase of Infront Sports & Media – the rights holder of World Superbike. The deal will see both premier road racing series under the same ownership, with Bridgepoint also owner of Dorna, the rights holder of the MotoGP series.

Bridgepoint snapped up 100% of the Infront shares for an undisclosed price. A press release announcing the purchase cites Infront generating more than 600 Million Euros from its various sports series. The World Superbike Championship is one of the 120 assets managed by Infront, including high-profile soccer leagues and events.

Owning both the MotoGP and World Superbike series presents a potential conflict of interest. The press announcement of the Infront acquisition acknowledges the deal “is subject to the approval of the antitrust authorities.”

Speaking on the relationship of the two titles under Bridgepoint ownership, the announcement states: “Bridgepoint will encourage the further development of Superbike and MotoGP although both series will continue to be organised and managed separately. Dorna and Infront Motor Sports are each fully committed to the long-term relationship with the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM) as their strategic partner as well as the successful partnerships with teams and manufacturers, circuit owners, sponsors, broadcasters and other stakeholders of the series.”

Single ownership of the two premier motorcycle racing series could mean big changes. The natural rivalry between SBK and GP has escalated with the proposed 2012 Claming Rule Teams in MotoGP, which will use production-derived engines in prototype chassis. This conflict, and others disputes over racing rules, could be silenced and the two series run in a more complementary, streamlined manner. There is also the possibility that one, or both, of the motorcycle racing series will be sold off – either as a requirement of antitrust approval, or as a strategic move by Bridgepoint.

Below are the official press statements by Bridgepoint and Infront executives. Notably absent in the PR quotes is World Superbike’s long-time boss and Infront Motor Sports CEO Paolo Flammini:

Dr Andreas Jacobs, Chairman of the Infront Board of Directors, said: “We are pleased that after an extensive strategic review we have found a new investor which will actively contribute to Infront’s ambitious growth plans which we believe will be of great benefit to our esteemed clients as well. We wish Bridgepoint and Infront well on behalf of the current shareholders.”

Miss Nicole Junkermann, Vice Chairman of the Infront Board of Directors, said: “We feel a phase of the successful story of Infront initiated by Robert Louis-Dreyfus has ended today. Infront remains a great testament of the enterpreneurial spirits embodied in the organization. We are confident the new shareholder will allow Infront to reach even greater goals in global sport marketing.”

Xavier Robert, Partner at Bridgepoint in Paris, said: “Infront is a scarce asset in an attractive sector with a strong management team and a unique competitive position. It has a well diversified portfolio of prestigious and operationally complex events that position it well to outperform the market. Not only are there continued growth prospects with current rights holders, but also the potential for strategic expansion in terms of geography, products and services. Based on the existing strategy and our combined experience, we expect Infront to continue to grow as it captures new opportunities in the international sports entertainment market, ultimately establishing Infront as the global number one sports marketing group.”

Philippe Blatter, Infront’s President & CEO, said: “Bridgepoint is the strong new strategic investor we have been looking for. The company is fully committed to actively contribute to Infront’s ambitious expansion plans and to support our solid international team – Bridgepoint shares our long-term vision. We are convinced that the new and strengthened ownership structure will not only form an even stronger basis for the future success of Infront, but will be of great benefit to our valued partners and clients. With Bridgepoint as our shareholder, we are in a position to tackle many additional opportunities now presented by the market while remaining highly focused on the continued delivery of high quality services to our clients and partners in all areas of our existing business.”