Lawrence Stroll has always talked a lot. He’s a salesman and has done well for himself. Remarkably so… Stroll’s latest burst of chat was to the Journal de Montréal and he revealed to the newspaper that his son Lance will be in Formula 1 next year. This was not exactly a revelation, but a confirmation of recent F1 rumours, although Stroll did not say that there was a deal with Williams. The newspaper was sufficiently diplomatic not to make much of the fact that Stroll has paid a large sum in order to get his son into F1. This is not a crime and, to be fair, the youngster has done well in Formula 3, although some of the other teams complain that Stroll bought Prema Powerteam in order to help his son and had Williams engineers working on the car. This is all true, but the son still had to deliver the goods and he has done that. Is he good enough for Formula 1? That is a different question, but one supposes that Williams would not take him simply for the money. Stroll told the paper that there are two options for 2017, and while one might waste time and energy trying to figure out the other, it is very clear that Williams will be the destination. Normally Williams does not let a driver out in one of its cars unless a contract is in place and given that the team is not only testing the youngster all over the world, but also tweeting about his F3 successes, it is safe bet that something is already on paper.
There have been rumours that Stroll Sr has bought a share in the team, but this is not true, at least not yet. The team, lest we forget, is listed on the Deutsche Börse in Frankfurt and any major changes in shareholdings must be announced as soon as they happen to avoid share price manipulations that might take place if such information remained secret. The last registered ownership details show Sir Frank Williams holding 52.5 percent of the company, 24 percent of the business being traded, Brad Hollinger owning 10 percent and Patrick Head 9.3 percent. The rest is owned by the employees. So, while Stroll might be providing the team with large sums of money for this year’s testing and next year’s racing, he is not a shareholder.
Money is really not a problem. Stroll has worked in the fashion world since he was a youngster. His father, Leo Strulovitch, started out licensing Pierre Cardin products in Canada in the 1970s and then followed up with the Polo Ralph Lauren brand. It was through this that Stroll (who is legally Strulovitch) met Lauren and acquired the rights to market Ralph Lauren products in Europe, through a company called Poloco SA, in league with Hong Kong apparel manufacturer Silas Chou. This was a great success and the pair went on to establish a private equity business called Sportswear Holdings Limited in Hong Kong in 1989 to acquire and invest in global lifestyle brands. Their first acquisition was the Tommy Hilfiger brand, although this was soon followed by Pepe Jeans. In 1992 they floated Hilfiger and used some of the money raised to sponsor Team Lotus in Formula 1 with the Hilfiger and Pepe Jeans brands. In the late 1990s Hilfiger became a sponsor of Ferrari. Sportswear Holdings would later acquire the British jeweler Asprey & Garrard, which was in difficulties. That deal came about through the F1 connection as Asprey was also a Ferrari sponsor at the time.
After selling Hilfiger and Asprey, Sportswear Holdings invested in Michael Kors in 2003 and built the business up for an IPO in 2011. In 2014 Stroll and Chou sold their remaining shares in Michael Kors. Stroll is reckoned to be worth around $2.4 billion. He has talked about getting involved in various teams but has yet to do so. He’s a Ferrari fan and raced in the Ferrari Challenge in the United States and has also bought and redeveloped the Mont Tremblant racing circuit. Today he has a large collection of Ferraris, including a 1967 GTB/4 S NART Spider, which he purchased at an auction in 2013 for $27.5 million. For the moment his primary activity is getting his son into F1. What happens next remains to be seen… He might be a potential buyer for Force India, but the price, while easily manageable for him, is perhaps more than he is willing to pay.