By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) – U.S.-based investment group MSP Sports Capital is taking a significant minority stake in McLaren Racing in a deal the Formula One team said would give them the tools to return to the top of the sport.
The long-term investment, announced on Sunday, is for an initial 15% holding rising to a maximum 33% by the end of 2022. McLaren said it values the British racing outfit at 560 million pounds ($740.5 million).
Under the deal, MSP will put 185 million pounds into the former world champions, who last won a race in 2012 but are still historically the sport’s second-most successful team, over a two-year period.
Luxury sportscar maker McLaren Automotive remains wholly owned by the McLaren Group, whose majority shareholder is Bahrain’s Mumtalakat holding company, and is not part of the transaction.
The consortium members include The Najafi Companies, a private investment firm, and UBS O’Connor, a hedge fund subsidiary of Swiss investment banking firm UBS.
MSP is headquartered in New York and the principals have a background as owners and investors in Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association (NBA) among other ventures.
Jahm Najafi will become a vice-chairman of McLaren Racing, while Jeff Moorad of MSP and Rodrigo Trelles Zabala of UBS O’Connor will join the McLaren Racing board.
McLaren Racing chief executive Zak Brown said the investment marked the start of “the next chapter” and would allow the team to “turbocharge” their efforts.
Paul Walsh, executive chairman of the McLaren Group, told a video conference that the new cash flow would not impact the debt level of McLaren directly.
“We have got a number of activities in place where we will look to refinance some of our debt next year and attendant with that there could very well be some kind of equity raise,” he said.
“What this (deal) does is mean that McLaren Group is not funding on a cash basis in Racing.”
MSP’s arrival increases North American interest in a sport whose commercial rights are held by U.S.-based Liberty Media.
Moorad, a former NASCAR team owner, said MSP had looked into acquiring Force India when that team, now Racing Point and owned by Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll, went into administration in 2018.
They also considered former champions Williams, whose sale to U.S.-based Dorilton Capital was announced in August.
Moorad said McLaren, who are switching to Mercedes engines next season with Australian Daniel Ricciardo joining from Renault, was “by far” the first choice.
Najafi said Liberty’s stewardship of the sport, with a budget cap being introduced next year and major changes in 2022 to level the playing field and put Formula One on a more sustainable footing, provided investor confidence.
“We believe that Liberty’s business plan of creating more franchise-like values on the teams are going to flow in part from the cost cap,” said Moorad.
“All of these pieces of a thoughtful business plan will ultimately create franchise values for each of the teams in the sport. That’s our bet, to be frank. We’re betting on the long-term future of Formula One.” ($1 = 0.7563 pounds)
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, Editing by Gareth Jones, Raissa Kasolowsky and Hugh Lawson)