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Williams Formula 1 team consider stock market flotation

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Matt Roberts' MotoGP column

The Williams Formula 1 team is considering a flotation on the stock market, chairman Adam Parr has said.

Team principal and owner Sir Frank Williams would remain the majority shareholder, with co-founder Patrick Head retaining a "substantial" stake.

Parr said the move was not motivated by a desire to seek an injection of funds.

"If we were to go to the market, it would create a basis for future planning. It's about succession planning and future-proofing," he said.

"We have to think about the long-term future of the team. You can't do it overnight and you can't do it in a rush, better to plan now to prepare for the future."

Williams are one of the most successful teams in F1, but they have slipped from the pedestal they occupied when they dominated the sport for much of the 1980s and 1990s.

They have not won a championship since 1997 and last won a grand prix in 2004 and have in recent years struggle to raise the budget required to compete at the front.

Sir Frank Williams said in a statement: "My goal was to race in Formula 1 as an independent constructor.

"This was and is my great passion and I will race for as long as I continue to be blessed with good health.

"It is also my desire that the team is in good shape to go on racing long after I am gone.

"To that end, it is prudent and necessary to plan for an ownership structure that will enable Williams to be an independent constructor, owned and staffed by people committed to Formula 1 and to the sound business practices which have supported us over three decades.

"I have concluded that the option which will best achieve this is to broaden our shareholder base with public shareholders, while having a stable core of long-term investors closely involved in the running of the team.

"This will ensure stability, good governance and will, I believe, enable us to attract and retain the best people and partners."

Williams owned 65% of the team and Head 35% until they sold what is believed to be 10% to Wolff in 2009, reducing their own shareholding's proportionally.

Parr added: "It is very important to state we are not as a company seeking to raise funds. This would not involve any new equity or funding for the company."

And Parr denied that the action was motivated by a desire from Williams to retire: "Absolutely not. It is not anywhere near his agenda."

He said that the team had made the announcement to avoid the news leaking out and leading to damaging speculation about their plans.

"There comes a point where in a process like this where you're talking to so many different people that either you can't have effective conversations any further, or you're going to confront leaks," Parr said.

"And we thought it was very important to be able to plan it effectively without worrying about all this. We didn't want rumours beginning that we have no ability to control."

Williams finished sixth in the constructors' championship in 2010 and at the Brazilian Grand Prix the German Nico Hulkenberg took their first pole position for five years.

Hulkenberg has not been retained for 2011 after Williams decided to take on the Venezuelan rookie Pastor Maldonado, whose presence is linked to a multi-year, multi-million pound sponsorship deal with his country's state oil company, PDVSA.

Their lead driver will continue to be the Brazilian veteran Rubens Barrichello, a former Ferrari driver who has competed in more grands prix than any other driver in history.

BBC

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