On my best day, I don’t think I could’ve concocted the bizarre story about Haas Formula One sponsor Rich Energy: a supposed energy drink empire out of Great Britain, aimed directly at Red Bull, with a shady past and a bombastic CEO who comes off on Twitter like racing’s bargain-basement Donald Trump. Evidently, some folks at Rich Energy have had enough, because the company’s apparently getting a new name and new leadership.
Industry site Formula Money broke the story earlier today that Rich Energy is now called “Lightning Volt Limited,” and that former boss William Storey is out as both director and “a person with significant control.”
Those details are corroborated by a listing on the UK’s Companies House, a registrar of British businesses. The changes happened today.
Exactly what’s happening here is, and has been, quite confounding.
In recent days Storey—who looks like a ZZ Top roadie and “fired” the Haas F1 Team his company sponsored for “poor performance” and a “PC culture” in racing—has alluded to a power struggle between himself and his company’s minority shareholders.
One can assume from this that those shareholders won out, or transferred assets from Rich Energy to this new company, without Storey aboard.
It’s been a surprising saga from start to finish, but what’s not surprising is the adults in the room would want to get rid of this guy, who loosed this gem of a Tweet over the weekend:
Storey has not yet responded to an email from Jalopnik seeking comment. It has been said that Storey retains control of Rich Energy’s Twitter account.
The big question now, at least for racing fans, is what happens with Haas F1's sponsorship agreement. Does it transfer over, and become the Lightning Volt Haas F1 Team? Or is the only U.S.-based F1 team in need of a new partner? That remains unclear, and so far Haas hasn’t said anything publicly.
Fans and industry watchers began turning their eyes to Rich Energy earlier this year, and a Jalopnik investigation found the company had confusing beginnings in Croatia, a minimal product presence and very little cash in the bank at one recent point, despite apparently being able to sponsor an F1 team. Rich Energy has since been sued by a company called Whyte Bikes over allegations that it stole the latter’s stag-like logo; as of Friday, Rich Energy still owed that company a court-ordered $45,000.
And over the weekend a letter apparently from Haas F1's lawyers seemed to indicate it would be going after Rich Energy for breach of contract.
It’s all been a welcome break from the normally staid, ultra-controlled, brand-friendly nature of F1. But for Haas, and for any normal people who work at the energy drink company, it’s probably a story they want gone as much as Storey himself.
More on this as we get it.
Update 1:05 p.m.: A few minutes after this story was posted, Rich Energy posted this, claiming Storey “sold his majority stake” in the company:
He’ll be back, folks. Cool.