The appointment of Williams F1 executive Director, Toto Wolff, to the Mercedes Motor Sport boss role had several fans scratching their heads contemplating the ramifications. would Wolff sell his stake in Williams F1? Would he keep his investment with the team and if so, would that be a conflict of interest?
The Telegraph ran a story by Christian Sylt in regards to that very issues and Wolff explained:
“I have no concrete plans to sell the [Williams] shares,” says Mr Wolff. “I am going to handle my shareholding carefully. That means looking at all options and alternatives whether [team founder] Frank Williams buys them back, any of the current investors buys them back or I hold them as long as I think it is acceptable and feasible from a corporate point of view.”
Handling the situation with kid-gloves will be required and many feel it could be a situation of being too close for comfort for Sir Frank Williams. Some of that may depend on how the relationship between Wolff and Williams is and if Sir Frank feels the dual nature of Wolff’s investments prove concerning.
Int he US, there have been CEO’s of corporations who have invested in competitive companies to gain access of the financials and, in some cases, board-level positions. It also depends on what type of stock Wolff owns and what rights he has with his investment.
And interesting press release from Williams today announced that Wolff’s, Susie, wife and professional driver will remain as the reserve driver or development driver for Williams. Many fans expected to see Susie Wolff quickly switch to Mercedes AMG Petronas with Toto’s move but apparently that’s not the case. Here is the official Williams presser:
28 January 2013. Grove, UK. The Williams F1 Team is pleased to confirm that Development Driver Susie Wolff will be continuing her role with the team during the 2013 season.
Susie joined the Williams F1 Team in April 2012 and has played a valuable role in helping to develop the Williams-Renault FW34 and FW35. Susie’s level of involvement will increase during the 2013 season, with an increased programme in the team’s simulator combined with a greater level of in-car testing. Susie will be the first to get behind the wheel of the FW35 when she drives the car at Idiada next month, and will do the majority of aerodynamic testing this season. Prior to joining the Williams F1 Team Susie spent seven seasons driving in DTM and was twice nominated for the prestigious BRDC Young Driver of the Year Award.
Speaking about Susie’s continued role with the team Mike Coughlan, Technical Director, commented: ‘’Susie has proved herself to be a valuable addition to our driver roster and her feedback during simulator sessions is second to none. As a result we will be stepping up her role this year and I’m looking forward to the progress we can make with Susie’s input in conjunction with that of Pastor and Valtteri.’’
Speaking about her role with the Williams F1 Team in 2013 Susie said, ‘‘I really enjoy my time working with Williams and feel very much at home here. Last year was a valuable experience and I certainly feel that I’ve developed a lot as a driver. Increasing my role this year will further this progression and I can’t wait to get behind the wheel of the FW35 for the first time next month. I’m showing that women can play a role at the top level of motorsport and would like to thank Sir Frank Williams and the whole of the technical team for the trust they continue to show in me.’’
What does all of that mean? Well, it can be difficult to un-entangle yourself from contracts and investments over night. It also could mean that the relationship between the Wolff’s and Sir Frank is on manageable grounds and there is a comfort level that the departure of the Mr. Wolff to a competitor is not as concerning as those on the outside consider it to be. then again, it could simply mean that Susie has a contract and both parties aim to see it through.