Wolff to sell his stake in Williams

Toto Wolff
Toto Wolff

Former Williams Executive Director Toto Wolff will sell his 16 percent stake in the Formula One team now that he has moved to rivals Mercedes, but only when he finds the right buyer.

The 41-year-old Austrian left former world champions Williams in January when he was appointed head of motorsport activities at Mercedes, where he will have a 30 percent shareholding in their F1 team.

At the time, Williams said Wolff would retain his shareholding in the team where his Scottish wife Susie is a development driver.

Wolff told Reuters at the Chinese Grand Prix, before travelling to Bahrain for this weekend’s race, that he had given a commitment to Mercedes to dispose of the shares thereby avoiding any conflict of interest.

“Even if operationally it is not a conflict, because here (at Mercedes) I am a director and I’m not there (at Williams) any more, it doesn’t give a good light,” he said.

“But I owe Frank (Williams) and the family and the whole team there to do it with responsibility. I cannot just go into the market and say ‘who wants to buy these shares?’ and that’s it,” added Wolff.

“If I sell, I have to find somebody who is responsible enough, who is coming in for the sport, who understands how the team functions, hopefully a sponsor. And this is not so easy to find somebody who is suitable.”

Wolff said he was under no time pressure from Mercedes.

British-based Williams Grand Prix Holdings, which includes the Formula One team, was listed on the Entry Standard of the Frankfurt Stock Exchange in a March 2011 public offering of 21 percent of existing shares.

Wolff has been a shareholder since 2009.

The team currently have no title sponsor but their major backer is Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA, who arrived with Venezuelan driver Pastor Maldonado in 2011.

“Toto is a big shareholder and he’s a great shareholder,” Williams deputy principal Claire Williams, team founder Frank’s daughter, told Reuters. “He worked really hard last year to help with the team.

“If he feels there’s conflict then he has to make the decision in the best interests of his position and we would respect that. But we’ll wait and see what happens.

“I think if Toto does sell, he would be responsible as to the buyer he sells it to,” she added. “I have conversations with him regularly and I know he wouldn’t do anything to harm the team.”

Williams said the team was still open to a title sponsor, even though PDVSA have enough branding on the car and make a big enough contribution to be seen as one, and was always looking for more budget.

“We are doing a good job on the commercial front,” she said. “We are financially stable and have a good healthy budget to go racing with. We’re not complaining about that and there aren’t concerns that we aren’t going to be here next year.” (Reuters)