Williams planning stock market flotation

2011 F1 seasonPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Williams logo on the FW32

Williams are planning a public share issue on the stock market.

The team’s chairman Adam Parr said the move was to preserve the long-term future of the team and denied a flotation would be to raise money.

A statement issued by Frank Williams on behalf of the team said:

For some years i have been considering how to secure the long-term ownership of Williams such that it will remain true to the aims with which Patrick and I established the team back in 1977.

My goal then was to race in Formula 1 as an independent constructor. This was and is my great passion and I will race for as long as I will continue to be blessed with good health.

It is also my desire that the team is in good shape to go on racing long after I am gone. To that end it is prudent and necessary to plan for an ownership structure that would enable Williams to be an independent constructor, owned and staffed by people committed to Formula 1, and the sound business practices which have supported over three decades.

I have concluded that the option that will best achieve this is to broaden our shareholder base with public shareholders while having a stable core of long-term investors closely involved in the running of the team. This will ensure stability, good governance and will, I believe enable us to attract and retain the best people and partners.

Patrick, Toto and I are therefore examining this option closely and if the environment is propitious we may act in the near future. Regardless of whatever steps we take, I shall remain the majority and controlling shareholder and the team principal of AT&T Williams.

Parr explained why the team was looking towards a share issue rather than finding a buyer:

We’re constantly being approached by people who are interested in acquiring the team.

The bottom line is most of those people want control and our sense is that, first of all, that is not available. Frank absolutely wishes to maintain control of his team and, to be honest with you, I think people who look at buying and controlling a Formula 1 team often feel that they can run it and our sense that it is a quite specialised business and sport.

Also, one worries that a shareholder like that might lose interest and thereby put the whole team in danger. So, yes, we have been approached, we have considered other options and this is by far the strongest.
Adam Parr

He added that Frank Williams was in good health and said Frank and Patrick Head will remain stakeholders in the team.

Williams issued a Q&A with Parr:

Q. It sounds like Williams is considering a flotation on the stock exchange. Would that be correct?
ASP. Yes, it would be correct to say that Williams F1 is considering a flotation on the stock exchange. At this stage, all we have concluded is that it is the best way to secure the future of the team and its 450 employees.

Q. What is the timetable?
ASP. As the plan develops we will provide further information.

Q. Is retirement a current consideration for Frank?
ASP. No. Retirement is categorically not on Frank?s agenda. Anyone who knows Frank knows this.

Q. Are there any concerns surrounding Frank?s health?
ASP. No. Frank?s health is absolutely fine.

Q. What other options have the Board investigated?
ASP. We have had many approaches in the past, but none have offered the same benefits as this route.

Q. Toto Wolff invested in the team in November 2009. What is his future role?
ASP. Toto is a non-executive director and a significant shareholder in the company. He has already established himself as an important part of the team and he will play a central role in its future.

Q. If Williams were to go public, what are the implications for the team?s partners and relations with the FIA and FOM?
ASP. The team has always enjoyed honest and open relationships with its partners, the governing body of the sport and the commercial rights-holder. Whether we are a public or private company, this will not change.

Q. Would any flotation involve raising funds for the company?
ASP. No.

Q. Does Williams F1 have the financial track record to support a flotation?
ASP. Yes, we believe we do. The company has always been run on sound financial principles. In spite of the economic environment in recent years, we have turned a profit and generated positive cash-flow from operating activities in 2008, 2009 and 2010 and we have a fully contracted budget for 2011.