In the pitlane - Toto Wolff on the road to billionaire status
As the dust settles on the Lewis Hamilton contract pantomime it is worth remembering there was a delay in the resigning of Toto Wolff as Team Principal and CEO.
The 3-year deal signed in December no doubt helped the Hamilton negotiations but what about Wolff’s long-term future.
Wolff has become one of the most powerful individuals in F1 and is flying high but like Hamilton, he recently mused about the commitment required on a personal level citing 280 hotel nights and 1,000 hours of flying in a typical season.
Toto has proclaimed for several years that he will leave F1 at some point telling F1.com back in 2016,
“From my fundamental set-up, I like challenges and I am not attracted by the glitz and exposure of F1 at all. Probably, on the contrary, it complicates my life because there’s the risk that it sucks you in a bit, so I’m fighting that. One day, I will leave the sport and return to what I’ve done before and be a private equity person.”
Toto is a petrolhead and racer with a relatively short career with the notable achievements of runner-up in the Austrian Rally Championship in 2006, and the top spot in the 24-hour race in Dubai.
In 2009, he also became a lap-record holder on the Nürburgring Nordschleife in a Porsche RSR.
He decided to quit racing after following the rear end of fellow countryman Alexander Wurz and realising he was not at his level.
Wolff focused instead on his investment companies Marchfifteen and later Marchsixteen Investments which concentrated on IT companies.
Wolff came to understand the potential opportunities in motorsport with investments in Williams F1, German HWA AG, and BRR Rallye Racing.
This enabled him to fuse his racing passion with his business nous.
He also co-owned a sports management company with Mika Häkkinen managing amongst others one Valtteri Bottas.
Wolff rubs shoulders in the paddock with many billionaires and none more so than his friend Lawrence Stroll.
Wolff may harbour ambitions to join the billionaire’s club if for no other reason to finance his 4-year-old son's future F1 career, after all the lad has the racing genes from both parents.
A few years ago, Bernie Ecclestone lambasted the new crop of team bosses saying,
"The trouble today is we are getting people whose intention is solely to make money. Toto Wolff is probably the best example."
A bit rich (excuse the pun) coming from the man who ruthlessly exploited F1 to personally gain a multi-billion-dollar fortune.
So how is Toto doing on the potential billionaire status?
Well at 49 years old is already halfway there with his net worth estimated at between $450m to $580m.
Wolff no doubt has his eye on a bumper payday when INEOS founder Sir Jim Ratcliffe makes him an offer he can’t refuse for his 33.3% stake in the Mercedes F1 or Lawrence Stroll comes calling with a bucket load of cash.
In the meantime, the money keeps on rolling in with his $20m investment back in October in Aston Martin now worth $38m – a paper profit of $18m in just 8 weeks!
When Daimler announced a deal giving them a 20% shareholding in Aston Martin the share price doubled.
Analysts are sceptical about Aston Martin's future, but speculators are it seems not deterred.
Rumours persist (for the lawyers reading these are rumours and speculation, not accusations) that Wolff was privy to information prior to the Daimler announcement either through contacts at Daimler AG or indeed Stroll himself, either way, nice work if you can get it.
So, with a 3-year deal under his belt and looking to leave a formidable legacy with Mercedes domination in the hybrid era, substantial investments, and a happy family life for the time being all looks good in the world of Toto Wolff.
On a footnote: Toto showed his human side when he told the finding mastery podcast,
“When you have cameras pointed at you there is the danger of ego running away with you and you need to realize that. You need to be able to come back into your hotel room, look in the mirror, and say I’ve been a little bit of a dick today, that I got that one wrong.”
Note: Garry Sloan is the author of “In the pit lane – F1 exposed” details at inthepitlane.com.
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