Ever wanted to own a share in a Formula 1 team? Well now you can, because the Williams F1 outfit is considering floating itself on the stock market, with shareholders Sir Frank Williams, Patrick Head and Toto Wolff planning to sell shares to the public.
This is a radical step to ensure the long-term future of the Grove-based team, amid much speculation about the team’s financial health in the wake of it losing several major sponsors and being forced to sign the well-funded Pastor Maldonado for the 2011 season.
A statement from team founder Sir Frank Williams says that the decision will ensure the team’s long-term survival.
“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,” he said.
“My goal then was to race in Formula 1 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 1 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 and I are therefore examining this option closely and, if the environment is propitious, we may act in the near future.”
Team founders Williams and Head recently sold a 10% stake in their team to Austrian business mogul Wolff at the end of the 2009 season, and despite any decision the team may make to sell part of its shareholding publically, Williams is adamant that he shall remain in charge.
“Regardless of whatever steps we take, I shall remain the majority and controlling shareholder and the Team Principal of AT&T Williams,” he stated.
It is believed that Williams currently holds a 63% shareholding, while Patrick Head holds the remaining 27% in their joint-90% stake in the team.
The share sale options could allow for Wolff – should he decide to buy more shares for himself – to increase his stake to as much as 49%, and still giving Williams and Head a combined controlling stake (on the assumption that no other buyers join in).
Wolff – or indeed, Williams or Head – may choose to sell their shares to others if they feel they could make a profit by doing so as well. While his outright control of the company is still possible if he held less than a 50% shareholding, this might not be the safest option for him.
But pleasingly – and contrary to many rumours of late – Williams has claimed to be in perfectly fine health and has declared no intention of retiring from his role anytime soon.