Ineos has become a joint owner of the Mercedes Formula One team, as the chemicals group controlled by British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe continues its spending spree in sport.
The deal announced on Friday means Ineos will become an “equal partner” in the team alongside the German brand’s parent Daimler, which will reduce its 60 per cent shareholding, and team principal Toto Wolff, who slightly increases his 30 per cent ownership stake.
Each party will own a third of the team, which with driver Lewis Hamilton has dominated the sport since its return to F1 in 2010.
Financial terms of the deal were not revealed. A person briefed on the process said Ineos invested at a valuation that compares favourably with McLaren F1, a rival British team that was valued at £560m in a stake sale this month.
Sir Jim said the investment in Mercedes F1 came as “for the past two or three years, we have wanted to build a sports franchise where we believe we can build value”.
The deal adds to Ineos’s growing sports portfolio, on which the company has spent an estimated £400m to date. Last year, it acquired French football club OGC Nice for €100m, adding to acquisitions of Lausanne Sports FC of Switzerland, and the UK road cycling organisation Team Sky which has since been renamed Team Ineos.
The company is funding the British team led by Ben Ainslie that is attempting to win the America’s Cup, the most prestigious event in sailing. It also backed the successful effort by Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge last year to run a marathon in under two hours.
Critics say the chemicals group is using sports as a “greenwashing” exercise to enhance Ineos’s corporate image and divert attention from its environmental record.
The accusation is dismissed by the company. Sir Jim said the moves related to a life-long love of sport, while Ineos is increasingly shifting towards making consumer products meaning that “increasing brand awareness is important to the Ineos business”.
The Formula One deal, however, ties Ineos more closely to Daimler.
This month, the company bought a Mercedes plant in France where it will build its flagship Grenadier off-road vehicle, rather than in Bridgend, South Wales as previously planned. The move resulted in fierce criticism of Sir Jim, one of Britain’s richest men and a prominent Brexiter. The company said its decision was “not related to Brexit”.
Ola Kallenius, Daimler chairman, said Ineos could also become a future partner in building sustainable fuel technologies.
Ineos will also remain the Mercedes F1 team’s principal sponsor, in a deal signed in January worth £20m a year. Mr Wolff, who has masterminded the outfit’s recent domination on the track, will stay on as team principal and chief executive for a further three years.
“I’ve always said if someone else can do a better job, I would hand the baton over,” said Mr Wolff. “That is not the case yet.”
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