When the Williams Formula 1 team announced in May that it was for sale, it came as a shock to the sport.
Williams traded after the team lost $ 13.25 million last year compared to a profit of $ 21 million in 2018.
The forecast was for more losses this year due to the impact of pandemic. The team also ended its partnership with title sponsor ROKiT, a telecommunications company. “They were the last nails in our coffin,” Claire Williamssaid the former deputy team manager in an interview. “When the corona hit, there was a bigger picture to think about how we should drive again and keep our business afloat during shutdown.
“It was like, ‘Right, we’re really scratching here about what we have.’ Then came the decision that we had to seek investment or sell. We did not have a choice. We had literally done everything. ”
Williams said two elements were behind the decision. “The first was to save the team,” she said. “When I say save the team, I mean make sure people had security for their jobs, that the team existed or survived to their advantage.”
The second reason was personal. Her father and the team’s co-founder, Frank, had been in charge for 43 years. “I wanted to make sure my dad came out of it with money to show for his work, not that he would have taken care of it,” she said.
“My dad has never taken a penny out of the team over the years,” Williams added. “I wanted to make sure he had something to show for his legacy. It was also very important to me. I felt that I was very carefully considering the attitude that the team had been in for many years. ”
If the situation had gone unchecked, she said, the team would have gone through a legal review process known as administration with its father “without getting away with anything.”
On August 21, Williams said it had been sold to New York-based private equity firm Dorilton Capital for an estimated $ 200 million. The last of the team’s 735 races starting under family ownership took place on September 6 at the Italian Grand Prix.
Williams returned to the team’s headquarters in Grove, England to clear her desk and her father’s.
“The whole Monza week ended and it felt awful to walk around and say goodbye to people,” she said. “It was very emotional, especially with people I have known for a very long time because they are your family.
“I had always thought of Williams HQ Grove as my second home, and it was really sad to leave it. It was quite an upheaval, with the only saving grace, if you can call it that, if there were so few people there because they were at home and working, otherwise it would have been much harder. ”
From a number of “interested and legitimate parties,” Williams said, the company decided to sell to Dorilton.
In a statement confirming the sale, Matthew Savage, chairman of Dorilton, said his company was “the ideal partner” to Williams “Because of our flexible and patient investment style, which allows the team to focus on its goal of returning to the front of the web.”
This is the first time a team is 100% owned by an investment company.
Rob Wilson, head of the finance, accounting and business systems department at Sheffield Hallam University in the UK, whose expertise is in the economics and management of professional team sports, said the team had a lot of promise as an investment.
“If you look at its history, the fanbase it generates, in many ways, you would suggest that Williams is a sleeping giant because of the success they have historically had,” Wilson said.
For an investment firm, it would look at an organization like Williams as relatively good value for the proposition it offers because of its chances of breaking into second-class F1 if you exclude Mercedes, Ferrari and to some extent Red Bull, ”he said.
Wilson added that Dorilton’s investment should be “in the long run. It is not a short-term return on investment that anyone will get. ”
Williams was a powerhouse team in the 1980s and 1990s, winning nine constructors’s and seven drivers’ championships. But it has only won a grand prix in the last 16 seasons and is ready to finish last in the constructors’ championship for the third year in a row.
Williams said she thought Dorilton could provide the investment to push the team forward.
“They have deep pockets,” Williams said. “I was tired of the team and all the people in it scraping around and not being able to do their jobs properly because we did not have the money to let them do it.
“For many years I have always found it quite deeply frustrating and disturbing. I knew Dorliton was willing to put money into the team to take the team back to the front of the net. I could feel a real passion for doing so, very similar to our family’s passion. ”
Williams has not said what she will do next. Her departure from the sport leaves Formula 1 without a woman at the head of a team.
“I think there are many female role models in Formula 1; there has always been, ”she said. “They probably need more exposure. We just can not see them enough because the image is dominated by men.
“But I do not think that Formula 1 and the diversity around female empowerment will suddenly take a nose due to the fact that I am not there. I think there are good women in Formula 1 who do great things. ”
Williamses is gone, but Dorilton decided to keep the name of the team. Claire Williams said at the time of the sale that it was not important to keep the name because it would have felt “like a clean sheet and we were done.”
She is now grateful. “They had a huge respect for the legacy and legacy of Williams, a huge respect for what my father has achieved, and they would not tear it up,” Williams said.
“They wanted to build around it, and why they wanted to keep the name is important to me. I just felt they fit right in with Williams and the people. ”