Williams received a £36million investment 10 days after the departures of former team boss Jost Capito and technical director Francois-Xavier Demaison were announced in December.
Speculation about Williams is in vogue this week, from rumors of a Golf title sponsorship to misplaced fervor over a nonexistent Porsche buy-in.
One specific development, however, is that it is now known that the company of incorporation issued £36million worth of shares to the Williams F1 team on December 22.
The way such declarations work in the UK does not initially specify to whom the shares have been issued. But as of 2021 shares worth 35 million ).
So it stands to reason that this is another injection of a nearly identical amount from the property and not an investment by a third party.
Despite the minimal concrete information about it, and the fact that the timing relative to the big changes in the team’s leadership may be nothing but coincidence, it’s interesting in the broader context of the team’s era under the ownership of Dorilton Capital.
One question is “why?” this investment, but no disclosure is made as to how the money was or will be used. And given that the holding structure is based in the Marshall Islands, Williams’ ownership (and intentions) is arguably the hardest to decipher in F1.
But we know Williams is a team in transition and continue to post significant losses. So whether that money is an investment to fund further improvements for the team or just another cash injection to improve cash flow, it will benefit Williams.
With financial issues having plagued the team in the past, making sure they are now on a more sustainable financial footing is clearly a priority.
For that reason, it is telling that although the first full season owned by Dorilton in 2021 meant a loss of £11.9m, Wiliams at least had no external debt.
The new £36m share issue in December means Dorilton has invested more than £100m in Williams since buying the team in this way. And it’s proactively managed Williams’ cash flow in other ways, too. For example, in 2021 Williams borrowed £34m from BCE LLC and then sold part of the intellectual property to another BCE company in exchange for the release of the existing loan and £13.9m in cash. In February last year, Williams completed the sale of its remaining stake in former sister company Williams Advance Engineering for £33.7 million in net cash.
The need for all of this may be exaggerated by the fact that Williams is hardly the most commercially successful team on the starting lineup. It has seen little outside support in the Dorilton era and its cars have sported minimal branding beyond that of its owner, former driver Nicholas Latifi’s main sponsors (Sofina and Lavazza) and smaller partners like Duracell, which launched last year have joined .
The losses on and off the track have raised questions about how long-term Dorilton Williams is committed, especially as Porsche has been constantly linked with the team since its bid to buy into Red Bull’s F1 deal fell through last year, and Dorilton would probably still make a profit if Williams were to sell it in the short term.
However, it has been determined that Williams is not for sale. How concrete this position is probably few people know, but a bullish interpretation of recent events is that Williams ownership is determined to give the team what it needs.
The specific £36m investment in December might have been inevitable, notwithstanding Capito’s and FX’s dramatic double exit, especially if it was tied solely to cash flow management.
If so, it still ties seamlessly into the tantalizing conclusion that Dorilton’s interest in Williams has increased rather than waned in 2022 in response to issues it has identified with senior management.
Williams announced Mercedes chief of strategy James Vowles as the new team boss earlier this month, with Vowles joining in February.
And it is understood that Dorilton Williams representatives paid more attention until 2022, and then became more active in the second half of the year.
There’s been short-term pain so far, with the apparent setback in 2022, the inevitable questions about how Dorilton’s money has been spent so far, and the likelihood of it losing more money than Dorilton would have liked as a result.
There could be more to come, with not exactly high hopes for big strides on track in 2023 and the likelihood that the 2022 financial statements will be released later this year, likely revealing more details on how much the team is spending was in Dorilton.
But last but not least, Williams is clearly not viewed as something that can let its ownership meander aimlessly year after year while still making profits due to the Formula One boom. The latest moves are at least consistent with a legitimate attempt to improve William’s fortunes.
The question is, how much longer will that go? Because the long-term commitment of the owners is crucial to Williams’ ambitions – not just to tread water, but to improve and be successful again.