Williams’ Minority Share Sale: A Sign of an Economic Upswing?


What Happens When a Little Extra Cash is a Good Thing

3:52pm EST — Friday morning, the Williams team announced that it had sold a minority share to an investment group headed by Austrian investor Toto Wolff, who “also joins the company’s Board.”  While the team’s public announcement provided little information other than that about Wolff, who appears to be a successful gentleman racer along with having a wise business portfolio (QADBAK-Sauber, perhaps you ought take notes about public disclosure?), the details about this sale came in an exclusive interview with Sir Frank Williams by Autosport.  Williams said, “most emphatically, I have no intention of stopping my involvement in this company or of ceasing my Formula 1 activities,” though he is sixty-seven years old and feels that it is time to take a little money out of the team, as he has “never taken a penny out of the business in 40 years and time is getting on a bit…I decided that it’s time to take care of some other needs and pay a few bills – my mortgage, for example.”

Still, Williams was adamant, “I cannot stress highly enough that he is a minority shareholder, the company is still under my control and I will not relinquish control of the business until I go completely. That’s not going to change.”  The apparent percentages of control of the company will not change, either, as “the shareholding is of a certain ratio and the sale more or less follows that.”

While this is an interesting development, it does make one wonder: how can teams like Williams and all the new teams, as well as manufacturer Mercedes, grow when Honda, BMW, and Toyota are claiming poor economic conditions and withdrawing from Formula1?  Well, part of it is the inherent emotion necessary to be involved in investing and participating in racing (this new investor has quite a bit of international racing under his belt), but another part is the fact that these non-manufacturer racing teams need less capital from individual investors than manufacturer teams need from parent companies.  It is much easier to raise money when the amount needed from an investment group is lower.  Also, the economy appears to be on an upswing, which would also encourage investors to get involved.

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