Rob Walton’s latest endeavour explains the F1 racing’s allure for multi-billionaires. For three days next month, a patch of tranquil wine country will be transformed into a cauldron of noise and car fumes when the Sonoma Raceway in California hosts the Velocity Invitational luxury motorsports festival.
The event gives collectors a chance to see how their prized classic race cars measure up on the track. Walmart heir Rob Walton is set to drive a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinetta, 1956 Maserati 300 S and 1965 Ferrari 250 LM.
(ROB WALTON IN 2017, CREDITS TO WIKIPEDIA)
The retail scion isn’t just a hobbyist. Walton invested in Formula One team McLaren Racing through his family office in December 2020, alongside MSP Sports Capital, UBS O’Connor and the Najafi Companies, according to people familiar with the matter. Walton is among a growing class of investors pouring money into F1, one of the fastest-growing sports in the US.
Photographer: Francois Nel/Getty Images Europe)
The latest news comes around McLaren Racing, which since 2020 has reportedly had under-the-radar financial backing from Rob Walton — the Walmart heir with a net worth of around $70 billion, who was a driving force of the Walton-Penner group’s $4.65 billion purchase of the Denver Broncos in August.
Walton invested in the hyper-car racing team back in 2020 but has received the limelight because he’s now the richest investor. F1 revenue rose 20% to a record $2.57 billion in 2022 and analysts expect it to top $3.2 billion this year. Rob is not the only billionaire in the list but joins the likes of, Carlos Slim, Dietrich Mateschitz, John C Malone, and others having created a separate “Billionaire Boys Club”.
Why does F1 need so many billionaires as team-owners?
The owners of F1 — Liberty Media — have been trying to make the sport more competitive, and therefore more appealing to USA viewers used to level playing fields (along with the odd sporting dynasty).
The problem is Formula 1 has historically been a members club on wheels. Since 2010 only 5 different drivers have won the whole thing. The teams used to trade hands between racing fanatics for as little as $1.21, changed names almost every season and were terribly managed. Unless you were a racing nut, it was an effort to keep track outside of the flagship teams such as Ferrari and McLaren.
Some fans want more team and more personalities. What F1 perhaps needs is stable teams (read “brands”) backed by rich owners, who get an even share of the revenue, and can pump money back into the sport without losing their shirt. Much like the world’s richest sports league — the NFL.
Now, after that Netflix series, also known as “Kardashians on the Wheels” and successful marketing and management from Liberty, the sport has enjoyed a dramatic increase in viewers.
But the teams remain a controversial issue. Currently, there are only 10 teams. For a league to be successful (impact wise) you need mammoth participation. For instance the English Premier League (EPL) has 20 teams fighting for the title for a span of 38 weeks.
Apart from everything, F1 has been on an enormous up. Among sports like Football, Cricket, Baseball, Basketball and more, F1 has unconventionally made space for itself both financially and popularity wise.