There are interesting developments today at Lotus F1 Team where a new minority shareholder has been announced. The firm is called Infinity Racing Partners Ltd and it has acquired a 35 percent stake in the team. The name is interesting given that Renault’s partner Nissan has the Infiniti brand, which is a big sponsor of Red Bull Racing.
Genii Capital retains a controlling 65 percent stakeholding in the team, with Gerard Lopez remaining as chairman.
The team says that Infinity Racing is “an investment consortium whose special purpose vehicle is comprised of private investors that include an American hedge fund manager, an Abu Dhabi-based multinational business group and royal family interests of a major oil producing nation”.
Further investigation reveals that the company was registered at Companies House on June 3 and has five shareholders. The dominant stake with 60 percent of the shares is a firm called Universal Sports Group LLC. There are a number of companies that operate under this name in different US states, but this particular one is headquartered in Brunei, which is a major oil producing nation with a royal family. The Sultan of Brunei is worth around $19 billion and has a celebrated car collection of 7,000 cars, reckoned to be worth about $5 billion. However the only family member who has shown any active interest in F1 is Prince Jefri, one of the Sultan’s brothers, who owned Asprey in the 1990s and was a sponsor of Ferrari.
Twenty percent of Infinity is owned by Crescent Investment Management LLC, a New York-based investment business, controlled by American-born Mansoor Ijaz. His father was a Professor of Physics at Virginia Tech, who was involved in the early days of Pakistan’s nuclear programmes before he settled in the US. Mansoor set up his own investment business in 1990 after an impressive schooling. He has dabbled in political commentary in addition to his investment work and is well-connected in US government circles. He personally owns 700 of the 1000 preference shares in Infinity and thus controls the firm as these shares control the voting rights.
The third partner in the firm, with 20 percent is the private Abu Dhabi investment firm Al Manhal International, which is involved in the energy sector, “developing, promoting and participating in energy and technology related projects”. This is run by Suhail Al Dhaheri, who 300 of the 1000 preference shares in the new Infinity firm.
“Infinity Racing’s principals have exceptional expertise and a proven strong track record in developing and delivering high quality technologies,” said Gerard Lopez. “This partnership will enable us to increase Lotus F1 Team’s competitive advantage related to KERS technology as it becomes more central to Formula 1’s push for environmentally sound racing, while also making Lotus F1 Team more marketable as a brand, opening up additional major sponsorship opportunities.”