WRC Promoter, the commercial operator behind the World Rally Championship, has announced that its chief executive and managing directer Oliver Ciesla is to step down from his position in June.
Ciesla has led the organisation since 2013, when WRC Promoter was formed by a collaboration between Red Bull Media House and Sportsman Media – where Ciesla had been serving as managing director. It replaced the WRC’s previous commercial promoter, North One Sport, which collapsed following the arrest of its owner, Russian billionaire Vladimir Antonov.
On his departure, Ciesla told the DirtFish website: “There is no reason for speculation, I decided to step down from my role as CEO of WRC Promoter from the end of June.
“As a manager I had the feeling that part of the mission is accomplished. The contribution I could make is accomplished, and I felt an inner desire for a new challenge or a new management task. It’s a desire for change after so many years.”
During his near-eight-year stint at WRC Promoter, Ciesla has overseen significant changes in the way WRC sold and distributed its media rights. He launched the WRC+ All Live streaming service at the start of 2018, a global platform which allowed fans to watch every race live for the first time.
The service is not geo-blocked, leading to concerns among broadcasters who had paid for the rights to the series that their investment would be devalued, but Ciesla defended the decision, telling SportBusiness earlier this month that “‘linear television remains extremely important for us and particularly on the news distribution [side]”.
He added: “But as the sport takes place from the shakedown [testing] on Thursday to Sunday at midday, this entire stretch cannot be covered by linear television – for sure not by linear free TV – so we must offer a parallel stream.
“We’ve continuously added features to the platform for six years and to create a much better functionality. We are much more flexible now, adding in different features and different payment models to be more focused on a market-by-market offer in the future.”
He also claimed that he had overseen a 500-per-cent increase in the media value delivered by the WRC, and noted that he is leaving the series in a much healthier position than he found it.
“From 2012, this is a very stable competition and, commercially, this is a very sound and sustainable business and this has not been the case before,” he said. “The way we found it in 2012, unfortunately, the championship was not in a great position.
“What we achieved since is to get the spirit of the rally family together, irrespective of individual objectives to build this platform and make it stronger.”
WRC Promoter confirmed in a statement that the search for Ciesla’s replacement has begun, and that initial conversations with potential candidates had already taken place, as the organisation seeks to secure a smooth succession when Ciesla departs in the summer.