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Sauber looks to the future with Kaltenborn shares transfer
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Posted By: James Allen  |  16 May 2012   |  3:36 pm GMT  |  67 comments

Peter Sauber has put the first stage of his succession plan in place by transferring one third of the shares in his Formula 1 team to CEO Monisha Kaltenborn, citing the desire to retain “continuity” for the Hinwil outfit into the long term.

Indian-born Kaltenborn has been with the Hinwil-based outfit for over a decade having initially joined to head up its legal department but has was given a front-line chief role by Sauber when the veteran retook control of his eponymous team at the end of 2009 following BMW’s sudden pull-out, becoming Formula 1’s first female chief executive. Sauber has already said he sees the 41-year-old as his successor as team principal when he retires for the second time and today has underlined the faith and trust he has in her by transferring 33% of the long-established operation into her name. Sauber retains the remaining two thirds of equity in the Sauber Group.

The 68-year-old was badly stung by the experiences of late 2009 when, four years on from selling the team he founded to BMW in the belief that this would ensure its long-term future, he felt morally obliged to step back into the breach when the German carmaker pulled out of F1. Sauber says Kaltenborn played a key role in that process and, given she shares his vision for the future of the team, he wanted to reflect that and recognise it in the ownership structure.

“When BMW pulled out of Formula One in 2009, Monisha Kaltenborn was instrumental in the team’s survival and since then she has been doing outstanding work in her capacity as CEO,” said Sauber in a statement. “Transferring one third of the stake to her represents an important step for me in providing continuity. My desire is to ensure that the company continues to be led as I would want over the long term. Monisha Kaltenborn and my son Alex, who joined the company as Marketing Director in 2010 and has since also been a member of the Board of Management, both embrace this aim. It means we can offer our employees a positive outlook for the future.”

Given the transfer appears to have been a gift rather than having a financial element, the gesture is considerable given 33% of Sauber is likely to be worth a minimum of £20 million. Kaltenborn herself has said: “For me this step is a mark of the greatest possible trust, which I will do everything in my power to justify.”

After overcoming initial financial and on-track struggles on his return to the team owner hotseat, Sauber has seen his team make back steady progress back up the grid and at the Malaysian GP in March Sergio Perez’s claimed the team’s best ever race finish of second under his sole control.

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67 Comments
  1. Lee R says:

    Best ever race finish was first and second in Canada 2008.

    1. Richard D says:

      ‘Under his sole control’.

      1. Lee R says:

        When being interviewed by Sky after the race, Monisha corrected the person interviewing her when they referred to this as their best result.

        When Williams last won in 2004 it was as BMW Williams… BMW Sauber should be no different.

      2. Andrew Carter says:

        BMW were a sponsor of Williams, not just an engine supplier, and that was reflected in the name. BMW wholly owned the team and the Sauber name was kept for historical and sentimental reasons. Thats the difference, Williams has always controled his team, Peter Sauber retired after selling on to BMW and then had to step back in.

      3. Yes, there is a significant difference.

        BMW never owned any part of Williams whereas BMW fully owned the team and kept the Sauber moniker in the event it needed to offload it in the longer term (despite them saying it was for folklore at the time).

      4. Martin says:

        IIRC, Sauber still retained a 20% share of the ‘BMW Sauber’ team. It was not wholly owned by BMW, and the Sauber name was not kept simply for nostalgia. Also, the chasis where designed/built/tested etc. in the same place they always have been, Hinwil, Switzerland. BMW corporate office and the engine division in Munich, some extra people/money, but homebase was still in Hinwil. The extra BMW money was the biggest difference, but a lot of the people behind the scenes are still the same.

    2. Graham Clarke says:

      That was while the team was still under BMW control

    3. Not under Sauber’s sole control. It was BMW Sauber then.

    4. Franko says:

      Not under Peter’s sole control – they were BMW then.

    5. RichyS says:

      But under BMW’s control, not Sauber’s sole control as James stated.

    6. James Martin says:

      Peter Sauber sets a shining example to other company CEOs with his moral principles. A shame there aren’t more like him. I wish Monisha ever success

  2. Iwan says:

    “After overcoming initial financial and on-track struggles on his return to the team owner hotseat, Sauber has seen his team make back steady progress back up the grid and at the Malaysian GP in March Sergio Perez’s claimed the team’s best ever race finish of second under his sole control.”

    How does he do it and BMW with all it’s might couldn’t?

    1. db4tim says:

      he cares !!

    2. Daniel MA says:

      I think big car companies believe that the experience making road cars will automatically help them design good F1 cars… makes me wonder what would happen if an airplane company ran an F1 team?

      1. Tom Haythornthwaite says:

        “makes me wonder what would happen if an airplane company ran an F1 team?”

        Not sure if this is a joke or not… an airline company IS running an F1 team!

      2. The Kitchen Cynic says:

        Two, in fact.

      3. Andrew Carter says:

        I’m sure he meant Aerospace, not Airline, companies.

      4. Amiga500 says:

        I can absolutely assure you it would be a disaster on a scale not seen.

        Consider this – it takes around a couple of years to design a new car platform.

        It takes around 8-10 years to design a new aircraft. The conservatism and degree of paperwork within an aircraft company is at a level you just would not believe. Over 99.9% of working hours spent within an aircraft company is spent on things that do not actually add to the aircraft.

      5. Jack Flash (Aust) says:

        When a car fails, it just stops or runs to a halt. At worst, the thing fails to start. Rarely, if ever, would a car just fail to turn a corner when asked.

        In aircraft, a sudden failure to any part to work (engines, elevators, flaps, landing-gear etc) can get a little more serious. Gravity works to claim those defying it.

        I am somewhat glad there is a bit more safety engineering and relaibility modelling going on behind the basic aircraft design. Who would step onto a commercial aircraft with the reliability record of a Toyota Prius? Not me. JF

    3. Cliff says:

      Peter Sauber has a full understanding of F1 and answered to no-one. That’s not to say Mario Thyssen didn’t, be he answered to a Management Board in Munich. We also have to remember that that worldwide car sales were falling, BMW had to protect their core business.

      1. Andrew Kirk says:

        Could also argue that Sauber is more of a racer than Mario. Kubica had a real shot at the title in 2008 but Mario didn’t back him as BMW’s plans were podium in 07, win in 08, championship in 09.

      2. James Allen says:

        I think that’s very true

      3. Cliff says:

        Thanks for that, 2008 could have been a very good year for BMW!

        I’d forgotten about the points you make. A case of sticking to the Business Plans rather than persuing your Sporting Ambitions.

    4. Kay says:

      BMW under Mario Theheiesien was pure rubbish.

      Ok to an extent they achieved quite a thing, getting drivers on the podium, but that’s about it.

      Thinking back in 2008, their target was to finish on the podium, had a shot in the championship. The achieved the goal early on in the season and decided “ok we achieved that and the rest can be forgotten and ignored”. Mario simply ignored the fact that chances don’t come often in F1 and everything that comes its way should be taken with both hands. Instead he decided to focus on 2009 from early on in 2008, which ultimately failed as history proved.

      Had he listened to Kubica, Kubica could’ve had a championship in his hand by now and BMW would probably still be around.

      Mario failed BMW, failed his drivers.

      That’s where Sauber succeed, take chances when they come.

  3. Ahmed says:

    Gosh… Peter Sauber is a generous man.
    Is Monisha single?

    1. Bradley says:

      If you trust wikipedia:

      In her first job in Stuttgart, Kaltenborn met Jens Kaltenborn and married him in the Himalayas. They have two children and live close to the Sauber factory in Switzerland.

  4. Kay says:

    One can only feel genuinely happy for Sauber in stablising the team and moving forward. The best of any private team =)

  5. xvohi says:

    Peter Sauber really is a classy man.
    I really hope his team becomes better soon. He deserves every good thing.

  6. Adam says:

    Peter Sauber once again shows he is concerned about more than just wining and sees a much bigger picture. He saved the team after BMW departed. F1 teams like any good business need stability and continuity to keep going and get better. His age makes that hard for him to provide to the team, but this transfer gives the team back what they need to promote and retain top employees and attract sponsorship and hopefully manufacturer support one day. Never met Peter Sauber, but my opinion of him keeps going up based on his actions; he must be a great guy! I hope that whatever the future of the team that his name is preserved, his actions mean it is deserved and not lost to some other company or sponsor name. May his team go from strength to strength!

    1. Tom Haythornthwaite says:

      I’ve met somebody who has met him and they say he IS a great guy.

  7. Tornillo Amarillo says:

    Oh, one third?!
    Are they in a relationship…?

    1. Heather says:

      Of course, because that’s the only way a woman can get to the top. By sleeping her way there. Nice.

      1. clyde says:

        Hmmm

  8. Jack says:

    That’s great, I really like Monisha whenever she’s interviewed on TV. Says huge amounts about the sort of man Peter Sauber is too, that he’d happily give up £20m just to ensure the security of his employees.

    It’s nice to read an F1 story and come away feeling positive about every part of it.

  9. Lentulus says:

    Great for Kaltenborn, she seems to have been groomed for this role over the last few years.
    No reason why she can’t do at least as good a job as Peter Sauber himself, especially as she has essentially been running the team since 2010.

    ps, I wish someone would give me a gift like that!

  10. Rich C says:

    Hope she doesn’t live someplace where such gifts are taxable!

  11. KinoNoNo says:

    Just goes to show that Peter Sauber is one of the good guys.

    I’ve been a fan of Sauber and his team for the way they fought back from having the rug pulled out from under them by BMW.

    Hopefully Monisha can carry on the good work and fulfill the trust placed in her.

  12. Neil Jenney says:

    Reward for loyalty and hard work is rare in this day and age. This decision further raises my respect for Peter Sauber.

  13. david king says:

    I am impressed again by the outstanding morality of Peter Sauber. What an anomaly in the paddock he is. Good luck to his team and all who sail in her.

    And go Koby! Mr sauber seems so conservative to look at, and he employs an exuberant risk-taker like the Japanese attacker.

    They say a company begins to look like it’s owner after a while because he hires blokes that are similar to him, so how does Kobyashi get in there?

    Two theories: Peter sauber is really smart, or he’s got a split personality.

    Anyway, that outfit looks better and better. Lookout the leading teams, you’ll have another one there too.

    1. Ralf F says:

      Just like Kamui, Mr. Sauber takes HUGE risks, just like his drivers and strategists! Remember he hired a certain Mr. Raikkonen when all the experience he had was 2 seasons of single seater racing!! (or something like that).

      Oh, and he’s really smart.

    2. Martin says:

      Peter Sauber didn’t just build a team. In his younger days he was a driver (not F1 though). He’s more of a racer than most of the corporate twits in the paddock!

  14. Obster says:

    Like the song says-he did it “his way”.
    Outright LeMans victory in 88.
    Held the fort when BMW bailed.
    Competitive car and good drivers.
    And a talented and unique CEO.
    Whenever I mention her in conversation to businesswomen-they get very interested and want to know more.
    Good PR on top of everything else.

  15. JTW says:

    Congratulations to Ms. Kaltenborn, and hats off to Peter Sauber for being a truly class act.

  16. Dave Roberts says:

    This is the sort of thing that is written in a novel, what a brilliant story! How can anyone not be impressed by this act of generosity and wish the team success in the future?

  17. Stuart Moore says:

    I agree, he sounds like one of the good guys; but bare in mind that if this continuity keeps the team going and it’s worth more, it’s better to have 2/3 of a lot than 100% of a little…

    The way this season’s going, he could have a victory in the next race or two.

    1. Dave C says:

      A victory? I think they missed their opportunity in the wet race of Malaysia, teams like lotus and drivers like Hamilton, Webber and Schumacher will have something to say about a victory before Sauber gets another opportunity.

  18. kp says:

    Perez is off to Ferrari next season and Hamilton will take his place as the no. 1 driver next to Kobyashi.

    Good news all round. But who will partner Button?

  19. tom in adelaide says:

    Now please do something about that boring old livery!!

    1. Mike says:

      Liveries don’t make a car go fast

  20. GWD says:

    A very interesting and unique story within the blokey world of F1. From specialist lawyer to F1 CEO, having guided the team through a tough commercial partner departure and rebuild. Would be good to hear both Peter and Monisha on a podcast from either yourself and/or with Peter Windsor on TFL, James…

  21. Aryan says:

    Congratulations to Ms. Kalkenborn. She is clearly doing a brilliant job heading that operation, and has put the team into a very nice shape. I’m also always impressed by both her knowledge and candour when interviewed on TV. Can I also say how nice and refreshing it is to have a woman CEO in Formula 1.

    As for Peter Sauber… what can I say, the man is a class act. Hats off to him.

  22. Kay says:

    It’s already better than it’s ever been in its entire history!! :D :D :D

    Top 3-4 classifications at one point in this season, with its driver performing in top form!

    Of course I sincerely wish they’d be frequent visitors to podium and join the big boys club.

  23. SK Anand says:

    In terms of management and approach, the approach is sound. I think it is an important case study for the big teams in terms marrying technology and talent, and coming up with a reasonable team. In particular, mercedes should look at Sauber to see what they have done in the past 4 years and how Mercedes has struggled despite having the best technical team and a marquee list of drivers

  24. Craig in Manila says:

    Sauber is fast becoming my “favourite” team : just gotta like the way that they go about their business. Seems like the only thing missing is a bigname title sponsor and a decent paint-scheme !

  25. forzaminardi says:

    Peter Sauber is a bit of a legend in my book. A remarkable man whose achievements and commitment to the sport and his team are underestimated by his calm personality and modesty. I remember reading an interview after he “came back” and it was very emotional – the man’s desire to keep his team in F1 and his employees in jobs speaks well for his passion, loyalty and good nature. One of the ‘good guys’, I hope he is rewarded by a win this year.

  26. Koby Fan says:

    He did say he wanted to retire before 70…so this is obviously the prelude to another investor coming in (Roman and/or Carlos for 2013?). Hopefully he gets a win before his retirement.

    Seems to also suggest that maybe Peter wants the team to stay independent (with major backer) in future rather than invite another manufacturer acquisition. Maybe the Sauber team name is going to stay on for longer.

    Does this now make Monisha the most powerful lady in F1? or is it 2nd after Slavica…

    1. James Allen says:

      Yes, she’s right up there. Certainly on the teams’ side.

      Bernie really likes her. He likes clever women

      1. clyde says:

        Like suzy wolff :-)

  27. Qiang says:

    Hi James,
    Can you share your view of why F1 media has generally less coverage on Monisha and Frank Williams’ daughter even though they have taken up big roles in their team?
    After watching F1 which were dominated by male characters such as Bernie, Max, Ron and Flavio, it is refreshing to see new faces in the next generation F1 executives.

  28. Elie says:

    Unbelievably generous action by Peter Sauber anyway you look at it. Have always held him in high regard after the BMW buy back. It seems he has found a worthy successor in MonIsha and I too enjoy her interviews seem like a very sharp lady. This couldn’t have happened at a better time as there track performance has been brill

  29. Kevin says:

    I find it so hard to be cynical about the world when I hear stories like this. Good on both of you…. I bet Mr Saber got more from giving that to her then then he ever would from selling it.
    Now can we get Peter saber to have Bernie’s job?

  30. Andrew Rider says:

    Sauber is genuine to the team and taking it more than just winning! Good man, wish there were others taking his ethics on board

    Andy. R

  31. Tom Haythornthwaite says:

    Although I am an Alonso fan, which can mean cheering for otherwise undesirable teams, I’ve always had a soft spot for Sauber, much as I had for Minardi. Best of luck to the whole team!

  32. Hermann says:

    Hi James,
    I think Monisha will succeed in her future career at Sauber. I hope we will get a breathe of fresh air with female faces which are competent in the pure F1 fields that are: engineering, aerodynamics, team – drivers – sponsors management. What do you think James?

  33. c-m says:

    Love the way Sauber go about their business.

    Peter is very astute. One of the first things he did was to build a full size wind tunnel. That set out his ambitions from the start.

    Monisha appears to be a great CEO and a very likable person from what i’ve seen in the interviews.

    All the best.

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