News broke this week that the Williams F1 team may be up for sale. This comes on the back The Williams Grand Prix Holdings announcing an operating loss of $16.04 million (£13m) for the year ending 2019. That’s a massive downturn as there were profits of $15.92m (£12.9m) in 2018. The options are an investment in a minority or majority stake, and certainly an option for an outright buyout.
The team has also ended the sponsorship deal with Rokit and has reverted to being known as Williams F1 racing. In regards to the financial investments: “The WGPH board believes that the strategic review and formal sale process is the right and prudent thing to do in order to take time to consider a full range of options and put the Formula 1 team in the best possible position for the future.” said a statement from the team.”
As part of this new strategic direction, the WGPH board is undertaking a review of all the various strategic options available to the company. Options being considered are to include, but are not limited to, raising new capital for the business, divestment of a minority stake in WGPH, or divestment of a majority stake in WGPH including a potential sale of the whole company. The timing is said to be in the next three to four months for the investments to be locked away.
Part of this comes from news that Rokit, after agreeing to an extension of the initial two-year deal to five, owe something in the order of around £10m for the period up until the end of 2019. In the background, investments had been refinanced, and a majority share in the Williams Advanced Engineering business had been sold. Although this appears to have given the team breathing space it may not yet be enough to carry them into 2021. As a family-owned team, and one with plenty of history over the decades, the thought of the name disappearing from motorsport seems also unbelievable.
Even just twelve months ago, a conversation that may have raised the possibility would have been met with icy silence. However, in the economic climate that the world is facing, a rethink and a lowering of the guard now means that any decent offer has to be entertained.
However, it’s not all “doom and gloom.” The team, under the guidance of Sir Frank Williams in the past, and now in the capable hands of daughter Claire, is eyeing the future. With the forthcoming change in racing regulations, setting the guidelines in a monetary sense will be attractive to investors, as Claire says: “The ambition we have to return this team to where we all want it to be, where it has been in the past, it takes money, and we need inward investment in order to achieve what we want to achieve and help us with the ambition that we have in F1.”
Adding to the team’s appeal is a number of factors. Previous investors have stepped in even when the team’s results were at best average. There are the facilities the team and company have, a solid technical back office, and the name itself. Williams F1.
“The world is going to be a very different place, ” says Claire, but with the forthcoming changes that promise to heighten the excitement of F1, she concludes on a positive note. “That’s got to be something that’s got to attract big brands around the world to come and showcase their brand and share the journey that Williams is on at the moment.”