Here I was, deeply sad that we might be seeing the end to the saga of extremely suspicious energy drink company Rich Energy as a sponsor of a Formula One team. It was a fun ride while it lasted, I supposed, but doomed to end with a tweet saying the drink company was parting ways with Haas F1 over a “PC attitude.” But! It might not be over yet, even though no one seems exactly sure what the hell’s going on.
To recap: Yesterday the official Rich Energy Twitter account announced the company was terminating its agreement with Haas over “poor performance” and, I guess, PC culture in F1, whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean here.
Then the U.S.-based Haas F1 team tweeted that Rich Energy remains its title partner, prompting everyone following this wild ride to wonder exactly what was happening.
Now, Formula Spy reporter Thomas Maher has a statement from Rich Energy—a statement we ourselves have not yet been able to obtain—that says the drink company is committed to Haas and F1 in general. And it says the tweet was sent by some kind of unnamed rogue actor.
From that story:
“The shareholders who own the majority of Rich Energy would like to clarify certain statements that have been circulated in the media from an unauthorised source.”
“We wholeheartedly believe in the Haas F1 Team, its performance, and the organisation as a whole and we are fully committed to the current sponsorship agreement in place. We also completely believe in the product of Formula 1 and the platform it offers our brand.
Clearly, the rogue actions of one individual have caused great embarrassment. We are in the process of legally removing the individual from all executive responsibilities. They may speak for themselves but their views are not those of the company. The incident is very regrettable; we will not be making further comment on this commercially sensitive matter and will be concluding it behind closed doors.”
Emphasis mine there, because the word “executive” is key to me. Who in an executive position could’ve sent the tweet?
Prevailing wisdom is it may have been the company’s bombastic CEO, William Storey. That’s what Motorsport.com is reporting today, citing unnamed sources. (Both Storey and Rich Energy itself have not yet responded to email requests for comment. This post will be updated if we hear back.)
From the news site:
The shareholders are keen to protect their investment in the brand, and that includes saving the relationship with Haas.
One source told Motorsport.com: “The deal is not terminated and William has no authority to do so. The investors are trying to clear up the PR mess, but it’s business as usual.”
The shareholders listed alongside Storey for Rich Energy UK are Brandsellers Holdings Ltd, Robert Lee, Charlie Simpson, Neville Weston and Lloyd Tunicliffe.
As for why the offending tweet is still up, it may be because of this:
Did Storey send the tweet, and does he remain in control of the account? And is he in the process of being ousted from the company? We do not know yet for sure, but given Storey’s own incendiary comments, tweets and behavior in the past it’s not implausible.
As Jalopnik reported earlier this year, Rich Energy—and its arrangement with Haas—is a very strange operation. It’s gone from a shady past, an almost empty bank account two years ago and a minimal product presence to something that is now somehow sponsoring an F1 team, leaving everyone scratching their heads as to how that’s possible.
Looks like we’re not done yet.
UPDATE 2:26 pm EST: William Storey, Rich Energy’s CEO, responded to an email we sent asking if he could clarify what was going on. We’ll just let his response speak for itself:
I am the CEO and founder of Rich Energy and control the board of directors and all assets.
I also control more than 51% of the shares
There has been an attempted coup of my position by a handful of shareholders who have a cosy relationship with Red Bull and Whyte bikes.
These shareholders led by Neville Weston and Charlie Simpson have failed in their efforts.
All key stakeholders support the current strategy of the UK’s premium energy drink Rich Energy