Genii Capital, the owner of the Lotus F1 team, has sold a 35% stake to a consortium of private investors, made up of “an American hedge fund manager, a multinational business group based in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, and royal family interests of a major oil producing nation.”
But it’s the name of this new investor that has raised eyebrows…
The firm is called Infinity Racing Partners Ltd – a name not dissimilar to Renault-owned Nissan’s luxury car, Infiniti, which is Red Bull Racing’s title sponsor.
The make-up of Infinity Racing Partners is interesting, along with the fact that its corporate entity was only registered at Companies House – the UK’s corporate regulator – just two weeks ago. One could reasonably believe that this recent registration was ostensibly for the purposes of the purchase and to try and conceal the identities of the figures involved and how the money has changed hands.
The consortium’s principal shareholding is owned by a firm called Universal Sports Group LLC, which operates in several states in the US but is headquartered in Brunei, almost certainly to be the “major oil producing nation” with royal family ties that Lotus’ statement referred to.
The Sultan of Brunei, formerly the richest man in the world, has a net worth upwards of $19 billion, part of which comprises the largest private car collection (7,000 vehicles!) in the world, believed to be worth around $5 billion. The royal family has had some ties to F1 in the past, with the Sultan’s brother Jefri previously owning Asprey, which was a Ferrari sponsor in the late 1990s.
A further twenty per cent of Infinity Racing is owned by a company called Crescent Investment Management LLC, a New York-based investment group owned by Mansoor Ijaz, a former nuclear physicist who is well-connected in the country’s federal government. While his company is not a majority shareholder, Ijaz controls 70% of Infinity’s voting rights.
The remaining shareholding is owned by Abu Dhabi investment firm Al Manhal International, which has its roots in the energy sector, and is owned by Suhail Al Dhaheri, who has the balance of Infinity’s voting rights.
So what does this buy-in mean for Lotus? Not a great deal, although it does give the team a vital cash investment as it seeks to continue its tilt at the 2013 championship crowns, with Kimi Raikkonen fronting the team’s efforts on-track.
Furthermore, with Raikkonen off-contract at the end of the season – and widely tipped to be joining Red Bull Racing as Mark Webber’s replacement – it gives the team additional clout to put a competitive offer on the table to retain the Finn’s services.
The team is also touting that the knowledge of its investors would be useful in the team further developing its KERS and hybrid technology as the sport moved into its ‘greener’ technological era from 2014 onwards.
“Infinity Racing’s principals have exceptional expertise and a proven strong track record in developing and delivering high quality technologies,” Lotus owner Gerard Lopez said in a media release.
“This partnership will enable us to increase Lotus F1 Team’s competitive advantage related to KERS technology as it becomes more central to Formula 1’s push for environmentally sound racing, while also making Lotus F1 Team more marketable as a brand, opening up additional major sponsorship opportunities.”
Genii Capital – which Lopez owns – will remain as the majority owner of the Lotus F1 operation, continuing with the remainder of its 65% shareholding in the team. Lopez will continue as the team’s Chairman, while Eric Lux, Genii Capital’s CEO, will continue on the Board of Directors.