The Williams Formula One team’s founder is considering selling shares to the public to shore up its long-term future.
Frank Williams, 68, said in a statement today he intends to retain a controlling stake in the nine-time champion team even if the share sale goes ahead. Patrick Head and Toto Wolff are also shareholders.
We “are examining this option closely and, if the environment is propitious, we may act in the near future,” Williams said in the statement.
The team, founded in 1977, would become the first in the world’s most-watched auto racing series to list on the stock exchange. Several U.K. soccer clubs including Manchester United listed in the 1990s.
Grove, England-based Williams is investigating in which European country it would be best to hold the share sale, team spokesman Claire Williams said by telephone.
Williams won the last of its Formula One titles in 1997 and was the sixth-ranked team in last year’s championship, which won by Red Bull GmbH’s squad. The team, whose former drivers include Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost, relies on sponsorship and prize money for most of its revenue.
Net income fell 50 percent to 4.5 million pounds ($7.2 million) on sales of 108 million pounds in 2009, the company’s latest published accounts show. The team also made a profit last year, Chairman Adam Parr said in the statement.
The last two years it diversified into developing energy-saving flywheel for road cars, collaborating with Porsche SE and Tata Motors Ltd.’s Jaguar Land Rover.
The project could be worth “many tens of millions” of pounds in the next three to five years, Parr said in an interview last year.
Williams, the owner, was paralyzed in a 1986 car crash. He said he wants the team “to go on racing long after I am gone,” adding he remains in good health.