Toto Wolff exits from Williams F1 team shareholding completely
Mercedes
Toto Wolff Claire Williams
Posted By: James Allen  |  09 Mar 2016   |  4:22 pm GMT  |  97 comments

Toto Wolff has sold his final remaining shares in the Williams Formula 1 team to US entrepreneur Brad Hollinger, meaning that the Austrian now has no stake in the Grove-based team.

Wolff invested in Williams in 2009 and led them into the first flotation of an F1 team in 2011; 20 per cent of Williams’ stock was sold when former technical director and co-founder Sir Patrick Head wanted to make his exit and offload some of his shares. Head retains a nine per cent stake in the team, while Sir Frank Williams owns 52 per cent and control of the business.

However, once Mercedes appointed Wolff as CEO of the F1 team and director of its Motor Sport division in 2013, he moved to sell down his shareholding to Hollinger, who made his fortune in private hospitals in the USA, via his Vibra Healthcare business.

Felipe Massa

Hollinger now has 15 per cent of Williams’ stock, with 20 per cent listed on the Frankfurt Exchange. The remaining four per cent is in an employee trust scheme.

The sale to Hollinger has happened in three phases, each of around five per cent of Williams’ stock, with Wolff retaining under five per cent after the second sale.

There was a school of thought at the time that below five per cent was potentially a level at which he could remain involved without any ongoing conflict of interests. However, the decision has now been made to exit Williams completely.

In Wolff’s debt

Williams will continue to be powered by Mercedes engines, which has been the basis of their revival since 2014. The team now regularly competes against the Silver Arrows and Ferrari at the front of the F1 grid.

XPB.cc Toto Wolff

Speaking as the sale was announced, Wolff said: “I’m surprised at how emotional I am about this day, to be cutting my business ties to Sir Frank and the team at Williams. Having entered the team from a purely investment perspective, I found myself in a more active role, helping to restructure this great independent team.

“I learned some lessons the hard way but they were all valuable for learning the industry.”

During a conference call attended by JAonF1, Williams’ CEO, Mike O’Driscoll, explained the team’s gratitude to Wolff regarding the original investment and assistance he gave to the British squad.

Mike O'Driscoll Williams

He said: “I first got to know Toto when I joined Williams late in 2011 as a non-executive director and it was certainly a turbulent period.

[Throughout] 2011 to 2012 was a difficult period for Williams and Toto did a magnificent job in demonstrating his commercial and sporting ability as he worked with Claire [Williams] and the rest of the team here at Williams to fashion the future for us and I think we’ll always be in his debt and we’ll always [remain] friends.”

Growing F1 in the USA

Hollinger spoke of his desire to see F1 make a stronger impression in the USA and believes the arrival of an American team in Haas F1 will accelerate that interest.

XPB.cc Esteban Gutierrez

He said: “I believe that Formula 1 is entering into a transformative era where intense focus is on enhancing the spectator and fan experience through new contact mediums and viewer engagement options.

“Furthermore, the addition of an American team on the grid with Haas, will accelerate Formula 1’s penetration in the US market that is significant to most multinational firms and certainly [is] rich with potential viewerships.”

Hollinger believes that there is a large amount of unreached potential for F1 in the USA and explained that adding a race set on the east or west coast of America near New York or Los Angeles would greatly increase interest among the US audiences.

He said “[Formula 1 has] huge growth opportunities internationally, but even more so in the United States. When you think of the success of Formula 1 without a meaningful penetration in the US, I think that pretends well.

XPB.cc Austin

“There is huge untapped opportunity in the United States. Certainly last year with the hurricane hitting Austin did not help but I am confident that things will get sorted out with the state of Texas and the race will go on.

“Obviously having a US team on the grid will create more exposure in the United States and [Haas F1] is one of the giant leaps forward in the United States with respect to Formula 1.

“I also believe that if we could have a race and schedule a race either on the east coast or west coast with the huge population bases surrounding New York, [which] they contemplated years ago, or out west around the LA Basin area would be a huge shot in the arm for the sport.

“I am hopeful that leadership in Formula 1 will be an even more concerted effort to penetrate the US market.”

Valtteri Bottas

Hollinger also explained that he would not be taking a managerial role at Williams alongside his greater investment at this stage, but did not role out taking a position in the future to help the team gain traction in the US market.

He said: “The board of directors will decide what appropriate role, if any, I would play. My interest is largely in ensuring the organisation has the financial wherewithal to execute its strategy and business plans, which I think are exceptional and right on point.

“To the extent that they have any interest in me advising or assisting with them in any role, I am happy to do that, but we have not had [any] meaningful conversations about that.

“I think they have a world class organisation now, and a very strong management team and board of directors. I’m happy to participate in any way that they would see fit. Certainly as we all look to penetrate the United States further, I would hope that I would be drawn upon to help with that as well.”

O’Driscoll added that in the future Williams, “would welcome [Hollinger’s] further involvement.”

Canadian connections

Lance Stroll Williams

One other wealthy figure that is now in Williams’ orbit is Lawrence Stroll, the Canadian billionaire founder of the Tommy Hilfiger and Michael Kors brands. He is a passionate motor sport enthusiast and is preparing his son Lance to become an F1 driver. Lance is currently racing in FIA F3 and is signed up to Williams as a development driver.

This relationship is as much about the development of Stroll as it is about him developing the car. The rules say that there is no restriction on testing of two year old F1 cars and as that now makes the 2014 hybrid turbo cars eligible for testing, there is an extensive plan in place for Stroll to do thousands of kilometres of testing before making an F1 debut, as drivers like Jacques Villeneuve and Lewis Hamilton were able to do.

Stroll does not want his son to be swimming among the ‘pay drivers’ in the smaller teams and thus the Williams deal makes complete sense. But having kicked the tyres on buying Toro Rosso, Sauber and other teams, one wonders whether part of the Stroll plan around Williams involves buying into the team to a lesser – or greater – extent.

Claire Williams

Williams’ deputy team principal, Claire Williams, denied that the team had spoken to Lawrence Stroll about any future investment in the squad.

She said: “That is not a conversation that we are having with the Strolls.”

What do you make of Wolff selling his remaining stake in the Williams team? Do you expect to see the team making a clear effort to attract interest in F1 in the USA from now on? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JAonF1 Facebook page for more discussion.

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1

F1 more interesting ? drivers to drive for a different team at each race sorted

2

maybe williams will get more credit now as a lot of people just assumed they had some mercedes gold star treatment above the other customers.

3

you know that f1 has completely lost the plot when the high priests of capitalism are starting to invest.

nothing good will come of it for the average punter.

4

The top picture needs a caption!

How about “Toto, give us the same software and fuel as yours, please”

5

Toto of course would reply “you chose your own fuel supplier Clare, and you write your own software”.

6
Clarks4WheelDrift

…you write your own software… “and good luck working out what language it’s it, what debugger and compiler to use and have fun doing what we’re been working on for years!”

7

Interesting that he sells up after his wife no longer drives for the team…..can it be as simple as that?

8

Seems a good move for Williams to involve some North American muscle with both Stroll and Hollinger. I wonder though if they are positioning for when Sir Frank moves on… Is Claire Williams the assumed heir to his shares?

9

Expanding in the US is a worthy goal, BUT, Austin should remain central to their plans. The COTA is a great track which provides great racing. The powers that be should be doing all they can to make this race a long-term proposition because if you provide some stability, and show American race fans how good F1 racing can be, you will build the grass roots support. America has tried moving the race all over the country “where the population centres are”, but that has not worked out. No need to re-invent the wheel!!!

10

No question that COTA should remain; I completely agree. The moving around (after Bernie took the race from Watkins Glen) is what killed the sport here. I think that adding The Glen would be a good thing, not subtracting COTA. But I understand that Watkins Glen is controlled by International Speedway Corporation, thus, by extension, the France family, which runs NASCAR. Bernie can only drive so hard a bargain with them, but I can see how they can mutually benefit from an arrangement.

That Charlie Whiting happened to be there just after the track was freshly paved is an interesting coincidence. I wonder if ISC might have given him a casual, “Hey, Charlie. If you’re in town, drop by and take a look at what we’ve done with the place.” I’m sure the possibilities will not escape TW.

11

@ rudy….COTA remains one of my favourite circuits. it has all the ingredients necessary for a super race including great changes in elevation. it would be a travesty if it disappeared.

12

Williams should find a new pu supplier, would love to see that team win another championship.

PS. Love the new commenting system James oh and 5 star Sebee…wow! i have been reading your comments for years mate, keep it up.. 🙂

13

Thanks. So much to talk about in F1. I’m surprised Bernie hasn’t made talking about F1 a subscription paid model somehow…yet.

14

“Williams should find a new pu supplier, would love to see that team win another championship”

Presumably because you believe that Mercedes would never let a customer team beat them (and you may be right). So what are their options?

Ferrari: Will never let a customer team beat them.

Renault: Rubbish, and even if they weren’t they’d never let a customer team beat them.

Honda: Too busy going steady with McLaren.

Williams may or may not ever win another championship, but right now at least they have the best engine and that’s a large part of the reason why they’re doing a damn sight better than they were a few years ago 🙂

15

yes you are right, it is great to see them up their..I was so guttered for them when webber drove for them,,,it was a good car, but poor engine.,,,when it was called a engine 🙂

16

Is it a coincidence that he offloaded the remaining shares after Susie retired?

17

Williams is one of the iconic greats of the sport, and this sale/transfer of shares indicates that investment in the team is still out there. Williams has been pushing hard on the track, they’ve got a couple of good drivers and they just don’t give up. With any luck Bottas can drive right near the front again this year.

18

Well, with no no longer any marital ties to the team with a failure to influence Williams into giving Suzie a shot in the hot seat, time to cash out?

It’s a real shame she didn’t at least get to replace VB at the Aus GP last year…would’ve attracted a lot of attention, and shown Williams to be more than paying lip service **Cough** Lotus **Cough** to having a female in a F1 seat!

19

…..have thought for some time that for a Team Principal to have an Ownership stake, ANY Ownership stake, in another team competing in F1 made absolutely no sense. The fact that Toto got involved strictly from an investment standpoint, then had his wife join the team, THEN got involved with M-B……….too much incest, in my opinion.

20

Seems that Toto has eye trouble…” I entered an investor but I restructured the team.”

But we all know he just bought a ride in F1 for his missus… she wasnt good enough so he sold out his shares.

PS I still think Toto is a dogs name

21

Theres no doubt Toto helped Williams alot. Is it also no coincidence that as soon as Suzie left Williams he sold his remaining stake. Cuts both ways, now I hope they get propper reserve drivers who can race fir them.

22

Seems like a good move for Williams and I guess it was kind of inevitable once Susie Wolff retired.

23

After reading this, I have come to the conclusion that either JAonF1 has the worst editor and spell checker on the face of the planet, or that this Hollinger chap is the most illiterate English chatting chap on the face of the planet.

24

@gpfan

I hardly dare ask – but what on earth is that?

25

????????????

26

Ok – I will have to bite…

What is that in the picture and how did you get it there?

27

@DRG
Did you mean how did he get the picture there or how did he get the unidentified items in that container to where the picture was taken? Whatever it is, it looks ???? revolting
Adding a picture is easy enough:

28

It’s delish

29

not english, he’s ‘murican… btw, is that a bowl of poutine?

30

Yes. Delicious poutine.

31

@gpfan
Delicious poutine….

Even the name sounds iffy 🙂 Is it breakfast lunch or evening fare?

32

@C63

Bit heavy for brekky, dear boy.

Chips and gravy and curds.
Try it some time. It’s a meal.

33

” English chatting chap …”

Yes. Even the Yanks (try to) speak Her Majesty’s.

34

That ain’t no poutine! I can tell that from the Southern Hemisphere. My guess is uncooked chicken giblets on deep fried spring rolls.

35

I get the impression that Toto fancies Bernie’s job.

36

I’ve wondered about that also. He seems to know his what’s what, and definitely has both business acumen and a passion for the sport.

Slightly OT, but relevant to the North American connections. I’ve just read that Charlie Whiting visited Watkins Glen and raved about the possibilities of F1 racing there. He says the new repaving has been done to a very high standard. Let us hope that it’s added to the calendar so that we can have a race on the East Coast.

Also just saw that Vijay Malia has left India and that the courts (and creditors) are seeking to get him back there to answer for a $billion-odd debt. I have a feeling that this may cause the team to go the way of Arrows and Caterham – unless someone (like Mr. Stoll…) steps in and buys the team a la Manor.

37

A while ago Bernie said that Watkin’s Glen would not host another race because the circuit still owed money. Does anyone know if this is still the case?

38

I’d think Force India would be more likely to go the way of Lotus (recent addition) rather than Arrows or Caterham. The reason being is that they have a really good car and therefore great team and anyone who is interested in getting into the sport would be able to pick it up for a reasonable price! Rumours of Aston Martin but I don’t think there pockets are deep enough to play with the big boys…

39

Love Toto or anyone replace Bernie. What a poor excuse for a “Supermo”. It’s clearly his doing that put’s F1 in it’s current predicament .

40

Mods plea don’t display that picture – I thought it would be an avatar ( or whatever they are called)
Thanks and sorry to be a pain.

41

Ooh now I’m curious C63!
Was it…
Your car, freshly washed?
A soft focus Merc mid corner?
A selfie with you and your fave driver at Silverstone last year?
Or…
A helmeted you, geared up and ready to go at the latest track day?

42

It was something that I thought might make an interesting avatar – but not something that was particularly (as in not at all) relevant to my post, hence my request to have it deleted. The whole post got the chop at the same time though 🙂 – which is fair enough as I’m sure receiving requests for things to be deleted are more than a bit irritating.

43

About time! Liking the new look for the chat system

44

Formula 1 has huge growth opportunity internationally, but even more so in the United States
——————————-

I read in the newspapers that there is a reason why some sports such as football will never be popular in the US.

As in, US audiences find sports like F1 or football boring because they’re not action packed from start to finish with many goals scored or many changes for the lead.

In addition the US has many famous sports franchises that getting the fans to forego a game of baseball/basketball in order to watch a new sport like F1 is pretty difficult

Certainly the Haas team will draw some audiences however the fact the team won’t be winning races means your average fan in the US won’t be attracted

45

Also, as far as “action packed” – baseball, Americas pastime, is far from “action packed” from start to finish. It’s the grass roots connection, and that nearly every American kid played catch with their father or friends at some point when they were a kid.

46

Ok since my comments which summerize the sentiments of some of the posts in the COTA thread on ShaggyTexas.com keep getting modded and blocked from being posted (damn do I ever love censorship!), if anyone is interested in what some random Texans think of F1 in Texas, have a read for yourself. The thread started shortly after the USGP last Octobre. It gives a rather nice summary of the chain of events regarding the financial situation the event has been facing.

http://www.shaggytexas.com/board/showthread.php/165216-State-Cutting-Funding-of-F1-Adios-To-F1-In-Austin-Likely.

Anyone who knows their The Simpsons will be familiar with the term “Monorail”.

47

@ Twitch_6

Good point

48

Most Americans follow the sports they do because of a personal connection, ie, they played the sport at some point in their life, even if it was just in high school. Not many get a chance to go racing, never mind drive anything close to a formula car. NASCAR is popular because the south is riddled with short track and dirt ovals, so there is a grass roots connection. That is almost non-existent for road racing.

There is also a genuin dislike for things european. To many Americans, euro fashion is fruity, euro music is trash, and euro sports are for sissies….especially soccer with all the flopping and face grabbing.

Amongst the majority of Americans, there is currently a pretty strong dislike for the “1%”. However true of false it may actually be, the 1% are blamed for pretty much everything these days. F1 is seen as a 1%er pastime. The only audience in America who might have some interest in F1 are those who can afford Hollinger’s private hospitals. The average, mid class and lower class Americans couldn’t give two craps about F1.

If F1 wants to build an audience in America, I think they have to focus of developing a grass roots level interest in karting, road racing, and the study of racecraft – and that’s something which takes multiple generations.

49

I thought the idea with Haas is more to expand his brand *beyond* the US?

50

@ rasbob

Oh I see…

So Haas is using the sport as a form of billboard advertisement.

Well, it has worked for I for one now know of the company LOL

51

I think, i got what you are saying. I have been playing “QUIZUP” in “Formula1” Category recently. A surprising number of members are from United States. Its time to encash this enthusiasm.

52
Martin Wheatley

– whats the weather like up there

– grey clouds with silver lining

53

It’s really amazing how Wolff has made a name for himself in the sport considering he is a business man and not an engineer or former driver

But sure his investment has been a welcome contribution to the sport as he kept Williams afloat and kept Mercedes running in the right direction when Brawn went fishing

However, with Wolff selling his last shares in Williams, this could be a bad sign for the team as it indicates Wolff doesn’t predict the investment making a good profit compared to the Mercedes pie, where the real money is.

54

I’m no financial expert but isn’t the idea behind making money on the share market to buy low an sell high. Seems to me Toto is simply following this principle. Assuming share price mirrors on track performance. I think the bigger question is; what is Hollinger looking to get out of it? He seems suspiciously happy to take a back seat…

55

@ Sir Tease

Aah so that how they do it.

Okay!

56

I agree, I see Wolff as the most powerful guy in the sport now….and how that happened so quickly makes my head spin! I couldn’t have told you who he was 3 or 4 years ago. Would make a great article JA? Title…”Toto -the real Wizard of F1″?

57

@ lakerfoureyes

One wonders if we could see Wolff eventually take over from Bernie

58

Brawn went fishing because of him!

59

@ HP

In deed. Talk about a forced retirement

60
Martin Wheatley

Wexit For Toto As Stroll Comes Within Williams Orbit

61
Martin Wheatley

Wexit Puts Stroll In Williams Orbit

62

Ps it doesn’t show whether the post has been posted though?

63

It does come up with “your comment is awaiting moderation” (or something to that effect), which is good enough – Just so long as we know that it’s actually there.

It just means that all our typos are hidden until they jump out and scare everyone 🙂

64

Yep typos will be free to show up when you least expect them Random 79…
like a depth charge on sub????????????

65

Oh, but I always expect them… 😉

P.S. James, is there any way to make the textbox where we enter our email address bigger? It’s no biggie but it’s just too small to see the whole thing at once – Cheers 🙂

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