Ericsson backers linked to Sauber buyout
Ownership of Longbow Finance is shrouded in mystery – as is the company’s motivation for taking on the ailing team
Sauber’s recent money struggles appear to nally be at an end, after the team announced at the Hungarian GP that they have new owners.
That welcome news was tempered, however, by speculation as to the identity of the new owners. The company, Longbow Finance SA, are based in Switzerland, with all the opacity that entails. So the stakeholders in Longbow are largely unknown, and there is uncertainty over what they stand to gain from an association with a team who were slipping into oblivion.
So far, only Longbow president Pascal Picci has been named by Sauber, and he has become the team’s chairman. But scrutiny of publicly available corporate declarations in Switzerland and the UK reveal clear links between the Swissbased investment company, prominent Swedish businesses, and Sauber driver Marcus Ericsson.
Picci is a director of Sportpro Ltd, a company incorporated in 2006 by a Birmingham-based lawyer, John Soden, who at the time was legal adviser to Ericsson and his then manager, Kenny Brack, ahead of Ericsson’s rst year in singleseaters. Brack is no longer on the scene, and no longer a director of Sportpro, but subsequent and current directors also include Finn Rausing, co-owner of Tetra Laval – the makers of the Tetra Pak – and Karl-Johan Persson, grandson of the founder of the clothing chain H&M.
Longbow Finance is a majority shareholder in Sportpro, along with Swedish real estate company Ramsbury Invest, which is owned by Persson’s father. In turn, Sportpro owned 40 per cent of ME Promotions Ltd, a company also originally set up by Soden and Brack, and funded it in the form of loans. Ericsson owned the other 60 per cent until the company was dissolved in 2010, and Persson was listed as the secretary. Before dissolution, its debt of £1.1million to Sportpro was transferred to a Netherlands-based company called ME Promotions BV, which has led trademarks related to Ericsson’s personal logo, and also has ownership ties with Sportpro.
Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn remarked only that: “All disclosures that are required in Switzerland are done.” But the paper trail offers a glimpse behind the curtain. Most importantly for the team and the sport, it shows that whatever the motivation for the secrecy, the money is now there.