Are owners of MotoGP considering selling up?

Bridgepoint, the majority owners of MotoGP promoter Dorna, is reportedly considering selling the racing series and probed banks regarding a sale

2023 MotoGP Grand Prix of the Americas. - Gold and Goose

MotoGP could be up for sale, with the initial price set at €2,000 million and banks having potentially been contacted.

This is according to reports from El Confidencial, which reported yesterday (Thursday 19 October) that Dorna Sports owner, British-based private equity firm Bridgepoint, is considering selling MotoGP, although this is denied by Bridgepoint itself.

Bridgepoint has been a majority shareholder in Dorna - itself the MotoGP promoter since 1992 - since the mid-2000s, when CVC Capital pulled out after it took a greater interest in Formula One. 

This is not the first time Bridgepoint has considered selling MotoGP, after it considered doing so in 2018, before eventually deciding to sell the series to itself. 

In 2018, the consideration was thought to be born from the downturn in Valentino Rossi’s performance (Rossi won his last Grand Prix in 2017, and finished on the podium only five times in 2018), and the motivation might not be entirely dissimilar in 2023.

Since Rossi retired at the end of 2021, MotoGP has had something of a popularity vacuum. Rossi dominated the sport for 10 years, and dominated its headlines for 20, and the sport thrived off that. In fact, it relied on it, and in his absence it has found itself without an identifiable hero.

Only Marc Marquez of the current grid has anything like the popularity of Rossi, and even he does not penetrate the mainstream in the same way as The Doctor had been able to.

MotoGP’s current situation has not been helped by Marquez’ recent injury woes, and the technical difficulties of Honda's MotoGP project, which have left him without a win in two years now, since the Grand Prix of the Americas in October of 2021. 

Marquez’ recent absence from the front of the MotoGP field has left victories and titles available for the likes of Francesco Bagnaia, Fabio Quartararo, and Jorge Martin. While all are agreeable characters, none have the kind of star power that can transcend a sport. 

Dorna, which reported record earnings (of more than €400 million) last year but also record debt (of over €906 million), has tried to combat MotoGP’s popularity issue by introducing Sprints in 2023, run over half-GP-distance. But these are marketed only to existing MotoGP fans, because many of MotoGP’s territorial television licences are granted to pay-TV companies like DAZN in Spain, Sky in Italy, and TNT Sports (formerly BT Sport) in the UK. Such pay-TV deals restrict access to the sport for many people, and locking the sport behind a paywall means there is difficulty in getting it in front of new eyes.

This reliance on pay-TV, as well as the restrictions MotoGP places on fan-generated content, has restricted MotoGP’s ability to grow its audience. In places like Spain and the UK, which previous to the respective current pay-TV deals had strong free-to-air audiences on - for example - the BBC and Eurosport, this has led to significant decreases in TV audiences. 

MotoGP’s fortunes seem to be about to be on the up, with Marc Marquez on the verge of returning to regular victory contention next year when he will move from Honda’s struggling RC213V to Ducati’s dominating Desmosedici GP; and with the fiery teenager Pedro Acosta[embed below] set to step up to MotoGP next year with Tech 3 GasGas.

Acosta’s importance, in particular, cannot be underestimated. He clearly understands the show, and the importance of stories in sport (rivalries, battles), and he is apparently ready to upset the current, friendly balance of modern MotoGP. Set to turn 20 next year, Acosta could race MotoGP for 15 years before retiring, and in that time could be a force to drive forwards not only his own career as a rider, but also the fortunes of the championship in which he races. 

But, by the time Acosta has made his mark, MotoGP could be in new hands should Bridgepoint’s asking price of €2,000 million be met.