Williams say they are considering selling a minority or majority stake in the iconic British Formula 1 team as they pursue a “new strategic direction” to ensure they are “well positioned to take advantage of Formula 1’s new era which will begin in 2021”.
Williams have finished 10th in the constructors’ championship for two successive seasons, which in turn has had a negative impact on the commercial revenues they receive from Formula 1. There has also been a decline in sponsorship while the coronoavirus pandemic has forced a delay to the start of the 2020 season, which in turn has increased the financial pressure on the business.
“As part of this new strategic direction, the WGPH [Williams Grand Prix Holdings] board is undertaking a review of all the various strategic options available to the Company,” said Williams in a statement.
“Options being considered include, but are not limited to, raising new capital for the business, a divestment of a minority stake in WGPH, or a divestment of a majority stake in WGPH including a potential sale of the whole Company.
“Whilst no decisions have been made regarding the optimal outcome yet, to facilitate discussions with interested parties, the Company announces the commencement of a ‘formal sale process’.”
Williams say they have appointed joint financial advisers to assist with the strategic review and be a point of contact for interested parties.
They added: “The Company is not in receipt of any approaches at the time of this announcement and confirms that it is in preliminary discussions with a small number of parties regarding a potential investment in the Company.
“There can be no certainty that an offer will be made, nor as to the terms on which any offer will be made. The WGPH board reserves the right to alter or terminate the process at any time and if it does so it will make an announcement as appropriate. The WGPH board also reserves the right to reject any approach or terminate discussions with any interested party at any time.
“While the Company has faced a number of challenges, Williams currently remains funded and ready to resume racing when the calendar allows in 2020. The WGPH board believes that the strategic review and formal sale process is the right and prudent thing to do in order to take time to consider a full range of options and put the Formula 1 team in the best possible position for the future.”
The news came on the day Williams announced their financial results for the year ending 2019, reporting a loss of £13m, down from a profit of £16m in the previous year. Group revenue declined to £160.2m in 2019, from £176.5m in 2018.
Regarding the Formula 1 team, revenues declined to £95.4m from £130.7m in 2018. They had losses of £10.1m compared to a profit of £16m in 2018.
Within the announcement, Williams also revealed they have chosen to end their relationship with title sponsor Rokit and their major sponsor Rok Drinks.
“The financial results for 2019 reflect the recent decline in competitiveness of the F1 operation and the consequent reduction in commercial rights income” said Chief Executive Officer Mike O’Driscoll.
“After four years of very solid performance in the FIA F1 Constructors’ Championship during which we claimed two third and two fifth place finishes, we endured a couple of very difficult seasons. We have implemented a significant restructuring over the last nine months and have strengthened the technical leadership team.
“The 2020 Formula 1 season has, of course, been disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and this will have an impact on our commercial rights income this year. The Team have also served notice to terminate its relationship with its title partner, ROKiT, and major sponsor, ROK Drinks.
“In common with many other businesses, we have taken extensive action to mitigate, including a prolonged furlough period for much of our staff. As this awful global crisis recedes, everyone at Williams Racing is looking forward to the start of the new season.”