Williams seeks outside investors

Williams is considering floating on the stock exchange – a move that would allow F1 fans to become shareholders of the team.

Although plans have not been finalised, the team says that it is seeking outside investment, while insisting that it has a full budget for 2011, despite losing several major backers since last season.

In statement this morning, Frank Williams said: “For some years I have been considering how to secure the long-term ownership of Williams such that it will remain true to the aims with which Patrick and I established the team back in 1977.

“My goal then was to race in Formula One as an independent Constructor. This was and is my great passion and I will race for as long as I continue to be blessed with good health. It is also my desire that the team is in good shape to go on racing long after I am gone. To that end, it is prudent and necessary to plan for an ownership structure that will enable Williams to be an independent Constructor, owned and staffed by people committed to Formula One and to the sound business practices which have supported us over three decades.

“I have concluded that the option which will best achieve this is to broaden our shareholder base with public shareholders, while having a stable core of long-term investors closely involved in the running of the team. This will ensure stability, good governance and will, I believe, enable us to attract and retain the best people and partners.

“Patrick, Toto [Wolff] and I are therefore examining this option closely and, if the environment is propitious, we may act in the near future. Regardless of whatever steps we take, I shall remain the majority and controlling shareholder and the Team Principal of AT&T Williams.”

Meanwhile the team issued a Q&A with chairman Adam Parr which gave a little more detail.

Q. It sounds like Williams is considering a flotation on the stock exchange. Would that be correct?

“Yes, it would be correct to say that Williams F1 is considering a flotation on the stock exchange. At this stage, all we have concluded is that it is the best way to secure the future of the team and its 450 employees.”

Q. What is the timetable?

“As the plan develops we will provide further information.”

Q. Is retirement a current consideration for Frank?

“No. Retirement is categorically not on Frank’s agenda. Anyone who knows Frank knows this.

Q. Are there any concerns surrounding Frank’s health?

“No. Frank’s health is absolutely fine.”

Q. What other options have the Board investigated?

“We have had many approaches in the past, but none have offered the same benefits as this route.”

Q. Toto Wolff invested in the team in November 2009. What is his future role?

“Toto is a non-executive director and a significant shareholder in the company. He has already established himself as an important part of the team and he will play a central role in its future.”

Q. If Williams were to go public, what are the implications for the team’s partners and relations with the FIA and FOM?

“The team has always enjoyed honest and open relationships with its partners, the governing body of the sport and the commercial rights-holder. Whether we are a public or private company, this will not change.”

Q. Would any flotation involve raising funds for the company?

“No.”

Q. Does Williams F1 have the financial track record to support a flotation?

“Yes, we believe we do. The company has always been run on sound financial principles. In spite of the economic environment in recent years, we have turned a profit and generated positive cash-flow from operating activities in 2008, 2009 and 2010 and we have a fully contracted budget for 2011.”

4 Comments

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4 responses to “Williams seeks outside investors

  1. F1 Kitteh

    Why does he say things like Maldondo is not there because he brings cash and Williams isn’t going public to raise funds? That’s almost worse than Ferrari denying it used team orders in Germany ..
    I can’t see how going public would be preferential to having a private investor because public investors are more short term, quarter to quarter and cash flow oriented whereas a racing team would presumably like to plow as much investment back into the business/the car as possible. So the two interests are not exactly aligned.

    • I am sure the guys know what they are doing, but there are reasons why nobody has done this before, the obvious example being McLaren…

      • F1 Kitteh

        Perfect two handed economist answer ! On one hand..on the other hand. I sure hope it works out for them, but like you said if Mclaren which has many other ‘real’ businesses besides racing hasn’t done it… I just hope that this isn’t a sign of desparation.

  2. melonfarmer

    I’d have thought that, for a 20% stake, offering ownership to the employees would have been a better option. Ironic that this is proposed as an Adrian Newey designed car wins both titles again (only 20 yrs too late).

    Why not just cut out the middle man (for once I don’t mean Bernie) and sell to a Sovereign Wealth fund (as per Ferrari, McLaren & Daimler) or venture capital (Arrows & Jordan – maybe not then)?

    The football club flotations of the ’90’s and early 2000’s turned out to be a raw deal for investors. I can’t imagine a team that has lost a significant number of sponsors would fare any better, but then the team would only care about the flotation price. Williams are my favorite team going back to the mid 80’s, but I think I’d pass (plus my letter to FOM regarding their proposed flotation from 1996 is still unanswered!).

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