By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) – The Monaco-based Venturi Formula E team co-founded by Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio has been sold to a group of investors led by the Spanish brother-in-law of series chairman Alejandro Agag.
The electric racing team, led by Susie Wolff whose husband Toto runs Formula One champions Mercedes, announced the takeover on Wednesday.
American Scott Swid and Spaniard Jose Maria Aznar Botella become managing partners of the team while Susie Wolff remains principal and Venturi’s billionaire founder Gildo Pastor retains an interest.
The deal is solely for the Formula E race team and not Venturi Automobiles, which Pastor controls. No financial details were given.
City-based Formula E, an FIA world championship, starts its seventh season in January but has been rocked by the announced departures at the end of 2021 of German manufacturers BMW and Audi.
The series’ major investors are Liberty Global and Discovery Communications.
Swid said takeover talks started a year ago. The exit of the two manufacturers was “not great”, highlighting the need for change to make it easier for teams to show a profit.
“I come from the investment business and every time you buy something someone else is selling something. So if I worried all the time about someone exiting when I’m coming in, I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning,” added the American in a video conference.
“It has been tough for the teams to make money and I think that is going to change,” he added. “No one gave Alejandro a shot at making this league and look how great it is.
“I don’t know what BMW and Audi were thinking but we think it’s actually the perfect time to be investing here… this could be an incredible investment for us.”
Agag told Reuters last week that Formula E needed to introduce a budget cap, ideally with a limit of 15 million euros ($18.22 million) a year.
“I’ve been a huge fan of Formula E since it started,” said Aznar. “I’m very proud of what Alejandro has achieved and accomplished in Formula E.”
DiCaprio, meanwhile, has not been involved with the team for some time. “We have no connection with him whatsoever,” said Wolff.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Christian Radnedge)
PHOTO: Susie Wolff (Venturi)