It was announced earlier this week that F1 team Force India have found an agreeable deal that gets the team out of administration, one that is backed by a consortium of investors led by Lawrence Stroll.
The Canadian billionaire has impressive financial credentials and powerful contacts in the paddock so this does not come as a total surprise. A few reports suggest that Stroll had been looking for an opportunity to acquire the Force India team for some time and the moment it was put under administration, he was ready to act. His son Lance Stroll has been on the grid since 2017 with Williams who have struggled to build a competent race car this year. Even though Lawrence Stroll is the main investor putting in the biggest chunk of money in this deal, the involvement of various others diverts attention from suggestions that the move was simply to further his own son’s career.
So let’s take a look at some of the new co-owners of Force India:
The Desmarais family is one of the wealthiest in Canada, seventh according to a Canadian business website. Their company – Power Corporation, was built by the late Paul Desmarais and Andre, his younger son, is the deputy chairman, president and co-CEO. This company is primarily involved in financial services but with interests in energy and communications as well along with small holdings across a diverse range that includes Adidas, Pernod Ricard and Total. But, Power Corporation is also known for its strong political links as Andre’s wife France is the daughter of former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien (1993-2003).
A big name in the business of fashion, Idol joined Polo Ralph Lauren in 1984, becoming group president and divisional COO. He was later chosen as CEO of Donna Karan in 1997 to take over from the founder but later left after a merger with LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton in 2001. Two years later, the American became co-owner and CEO of Michael Kors, subsequently working closely with Stroll as they built the company and in 2016-17 was even a sponsor of McLaren. One of John’s high profile moves as part of Michael Kors was the acquisition of shoe brand Jimmy Choo.
Old man Chou is from a wealthy Hong Kong family with extensive interests in textiles. The 72-year old has been a close associate of Stroll for three decades according to the reports, focussing on Far-East based manufacturing for various fashion businesses. Together, they built Tommy Hilfiger into a global brand with Chou as chairman and subsequently did the same with Michael Kors with help from Idol. Chou has also been involved with brands like Karl Lagerfeld, Esprit and Pepe Jeans.
Moving on from the fashion-based investors to a name from sports, Dudman is the head of Monaco Sports and Management, a company that describes itself as “a management advisory firm that typically serves high-net-worth clients and their families.” The Brit works with various celebrities and sportspersons, essentially looking after their financial and legal interests, and Stroll is a long-time client.
John McCaw Jr
McCaw Jr is the third oldest of four brothers who made their sizeable fortunes in telecommunications after the sale of McCaw Cellular, built by their father, to AT&T for $12.6 billion back in 1994. Oldest brother Bruce has strong connections with motorsport having previously owned the PacWest Champ Car team that operated from 1993-2002. Meanwhile, John Jr. focused on other sports and was part owner of teams in the NHL, NBA and MLB. The American does share a love for classic cars like his brothers Bruce and Craig and even has a Ferrari 250GTO in his collection.
Michael de Picciotto
Picciotto was previously senior managing director of Geneva-based Union Bancaire Privee, founded by his uncle Edgar. The Swiss gentleman left that role in 2016 to become vice chairman of the supervisory board of Hamburg-based Engel & Volkers. Or to put it simply, an upscale real estate agent dealing in top-of-the-range properties worldwide as well as yachts and planes, helping rich people spend their billions.
All the above-mentioned individuals have made much smaller investments than Stroll in the deal to acquire the Force India F1 team, many with direct connections with the Canadian billionaire. It is yet to be seen how this will affect the team structure, name and driver lineup in the next season. However, teams like McLaren and Renault have their concerns that Force India might become a ‘B-Team’ for the engine supplier Mercedes and that could further strengthen the control and influence of the German manufacturer in the sport.
Team Force India has been a constant in Formula One for some years now despite various financial concerns regarding the Indian-based owners, Vijay Mallya in particular. But their drawn-out money problems finally caught up with them this year as their prize fund advances were blocked by grid rivals such as McLaren and Renault which put the team in dire need of reliable finances. In July, just before the Hungarian GP, Force India was put under administration after the circumstances were triggered by team’s driver Sergio Perez. It is reported that he did so in order to contest a winding-up petition from one of the team’s creditors and to protect the interests of the 405 staff members that are part of Force India.
Stay tuned for plenty more updates as the 2018 season unfolds and don’t forget to like, comment and subscribe to the blog.