Claire Williams open up on the sale to Dorilton Capital, the team, its future, Bernie Ecclestone and more as its F1 drivers George Russell and Nicholas Latifi chip in.
For the entirety of their involvement in F1, Williams have had one owner, that being the man that established the team some 43 years ago: Sir Frank. The team, however, recently changed hands, after it was acquired by Dorilton Capital – an American investment firm.
It was a curious acquisition with little notice or prior leaks with relation to a deal, but it was a majority buyout, the result of which will be largely insignificant in the context of the team’s name, appearance, or heritage as Claire stated for the time being.
In the simplest of articulations, Williams as we know it is here to stay. Details of the deal remain scarce, but it is understood that a reevaluation of the management structure is in the F1 team’s future. Also known is that Dorilton capital’s transaction was made through BCE ltd – a fact that the keen-eyed soon took notice to as BCE are the initials of ex-F1 boss Bernard Charles Ecclestone.
Speaking to the media for the first time since the deal, Claire shed some light on the nuances of the deal, explaining both of the above facts, among many, many other nitty gritty details, with regards to the sale and the things to come.
On the new owners and the team structure:
Williams: “First of all, I think it’s important to say that we are delighted that we have managed to secure this outcome of the strategic review process. In this kind of financial environment, it’s never easy to undertake these transactions but we are very happy at Williams that we have managed to secure new owners, but also owners that we know are hugely passionate about this sport and also about Williams.
“They have very clear ambitions for where they want to see this team and they are prepared to put that investment into the team in order to do that. For the moment, it’s business as usual, nothing changes in the here and now, and we’re looking forward to going racing this weekend.”
The emotional toll – or lack thereof – of the family relinquishing ownership:
Williams: “I won’t be lying if I said it hasn’t been emotional over the past few months, but it has been a few months so we have all managed to get our heads around it and this can only be a good things for Williams. We have always in our family put this team first. It’s always been at the heart of the Williams family. We’ve put our people first and we’ve put the success and the future of our team first in making any kind of decisions in what we do. So this was almost, I suppose, a no-brainer for us. The team needed the investment and the team now has a really bright future under its new owners. I think most importantly for the fans out there, you will still see the Williams name racing in F1.
“The whole purpose behind this strategic review process was in order to secure this team’s future. It has been an incredibly difficult few years for us for a number of reasons, both on track and off track. I think we have done an extraordinary job keeping the team going in what has been a very difficult financial environment for it and this is the dawn of a new era for our team. We have secured the investment that was the whole purpose of this strategic review process. We have great new owners who are willing to put the money in that’s required in order to take this team forward and so couple that with the new Concorde Agreement that kicks off in 2021 I think Williams can really start to start moving further forward up the grid and making some good progress and that’s all we want to see.”
On the Ecclestone link:
Williams: “I saw this. I spoke to Mr Ecclestone earlier in the week and I did ask him if it was him behind it. That a joke, by the way. Bernie has nothing to do with our new ownership. Dorilton Capital is completely independent. Bernie is not the new owner of Williams and, as I said earlier to Tom, I am in my role, I’m here, I’m doing my job, I’m actually deputy team principal, not team principal. My father is team principal still and it is business as usual.”
On what Dorilton Capital bring to the table:
Williams: “The Williams family have always put this team first and we wanted to make sure that we would be able to find new owners for it that did understand this sport. I can’t go into a whole lot of detail as to the people behind Dorilton. That will become clearer over the… we will be able to make that clearer over the coming weeks and months but they’ve done a huge amount of due diligence since the start of this process. They were in the process from the beginning, they have spent an awful lot of time behind the scenes going through everything that you would expect them to go through to understand our team but also to understand the sport.
“They have some very strong advisors as well, who have been helping them through this process to build their knowledge and of course there’s still going to be a learning process for them but they are already within the team, they’re working on Grove with our team there currently in order to understand what’s required moving forward. So I have absolute confidence that they are the right people to take this team forward.”
Sharing the details of Dorilton Capital:
Williams: “I’m not sure what more we can reveal about them. They are a US-based investment firm. Their chairman is a gentleman called Matthew Savage. Their CEO is another gentlemen called Darren Fultz. They own a number of different businesses. They’ve been in operation since 2009. They have 60 businesses under management; within that portfolio there’s a broad spectrum of industries across which they work and obviously they haven’t been in motor sports before and they are very excited about this opportunity.
“I’m not sure that there’s much more that we can explain about who Dorilton actually are and I’m sure you’re going to be seeing them at a race track soon. And I think the second question as about my role, Frank’s role. This is very early days, obviously, and for the moment though, it is business as usual. I’m here in my capacity that. I was running the team in Barcelona and the races prior to that and that will continue to be the case. It is same with Mike O’Driscoll as well: it is business as usual. What I say is that Dorilton Capital has bought the full shareholding of Williams, so they are 100% owners.”
How discussions with Dorilton Capital began, and other interested parties:
Williams: “As I think I talked about, over the duration of this process, which started back in April/May time, we had a number – a considerable number of interested parties in the team who we talked with throughout the process, over the past few months. We were very happy with the level of interest that we received and I think that is also a great barometer for the health of our sport, as well, that there is interest in our teams and our sport as a whole.
“I think that clearly the new regulations are helping that. Dorilton approached us, initially, and I think in fact all of the bidders that we were talking to made the approach to us, versus us going out to the market, making those approaches.”
Frustrations tied to having to sell so close in proximity to a financial revamp and how the old Concorde Agreement derailed the team:
Williams: “I don’t think the Concorde Agreement helped our team and I’m sure it didn’t help a number of other teams either, just purely based on the financial disparity I suppose, between the prize fund distribution and clearly we’ve been able to work with Formula 1 in order to restore greater balance, I think. Whether it’s frustrating, it is what it is, I think.
“I personally am really pleased that the new Concorde Agreement and most importantly the financial regulations that are coming through with the cost cap and the redistribution of that prize fund money, are going to make it a lot fairer playing field for teams like ours and whether the Williams family own it or not, that doesn’t matter. This new Concorde Agreement certainly puts our team in a much better place moving forward and that’s the only thing that matters.”
Moving on to the F1 drivers Russell and Latifi, while not privy to all the knowledge of Dorilton Capital that Claire has, also spoke on the sale, and the new owners of the team with which they are employed, as they answered to questions about their preferences for new management and the sale as a whole.
On the changes that need to be made and the best use of investments:
Latifi: “Overall, I think it’s a very positive step for Williams. I think it’s secured the future and stability of the team, which is I think, first and foremost, the most important thing. In terms of what changes do I think need to be made? I think that’s more for them to decide. I think in the coming days, weeks, months, they’re going to be evaluating everything, I guess, like any company would have when they’re acquiring a new company, and see where the investment needs to be diverted to. I think overall, it can only be be positive.”
Russell: “Obviously very positive news for Williams as a whole and everybody who works for the team and for both of us as drivers. Obviously slightly nervy time previously and very pleased to see that the company, the team is stable moving forward, and has got a great company behind to help put Williams back to where they belong, which is definitely higher up the grid. In terms of what they need to do to achieve that, at the end of the day we’re drivers, we drive the car as fast as we can, and I leave that to the much more intelligent people than I to decide where to invest, and what changes they need to make back at Grove.
“I spoke with Matthew Savage this morning, who’s the chairman of the company. At the moment, they’re in a full review of what changes need to be made, who will be forming the management side of the company. As it currently stands just really pleased to see the news, and just fully focused on the weekend at hand.”
On the potential future competitiveness of Williams under new ownership:
Russell: “I think I’ve not really had a huge amount of time to process that far ahead. As I’ve mentioned a number of times I don’t like to get carried away and look to the future. I think firstly, F1 is an incredibly complex sport. And as you see historically things don’t change drastically very, very quickly. I think 2022 is a great new opportunity for all the teams to start from a new basis. And I think, like I say, I don’t know exactly what the plans are moving forward, but definitely 2022 I am sure is a big part of their goal to to focus on.”
Latifi: “I mean it sounds very cliched, almost every racing driver says that when asked about their future, in sport or with teams, that you’re really just focused on one race at a time and obviously I’m still going to be with the team next year. So that’s about as long term as I’m thinking right now. But beyond that, as George said 2022 is definitely going to be a very exciting year for the sport. Definitely an opportunity for Williams as a team to hopefully capitalise on that and get closer to the rest of the pack, so beyond that, not really given much thought to be honest.”
On who is best suited to be responsible for management at Williams:
Russell: “The Williams family has been a huge part of F1. I think the most important thing with this change of ownership is the name and that side of things will be continuing, which is very important, obviously. The Williams family would not have sold to somebody who they didn’t believe would be beneficial for the team moving forward. And, you know, I’m very pleased that they’ve come to that decision because they believe that is the best for the future of a team. And like I said, the culture will not be changing from a historic side, keeping the name of the team is very important as well for us drivers and the people back at base.”
Latifi: “I guess really just to emphasise that I think the DNA of the team that has always been, you know, a family run team, I’m sure that side of things will not change, which is again, part of what makes Williams Williams, beyond that, what what happens again I think it’s still far too early to comment or speculate on anything. Of course, you know, so far as far as I’ve been with the team I’ve been really enjoying that side of things, the team environment, and the culture that’s been cultivated here over so many years. So I would hope that that would stay.”
Here’s details of the Williams sale to Dorilton Capital