Looks Like Haas F1 Is Going After Rich Energy

Haas driver Kevin Magnussen at the British Grand Prix.
Photo: Dan Istitene (Getty Images)

The person behind the Twitter account for embattled Haas Formula One sponsor (?) Rich Energy, who might or might not have had too many energy drinks this week, has been busy. In a recent attempt to reveal the “#truth,” the account posted what seems to be the details of its own sponsorship deal with Haas—which Haas, naturally, wants to collect on.

The latest tweet from the Rich Energy account came on Sunday, and appears to show a letter addressed to Rich Energy CEO William Storey from Haas F1’s legal representation.

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The apparent letter, among other things, details the terms of the sponsorship agreement between Haas and Rich Energy—something that’s been a mystery since the partnership was announced in late 2018.

The apparent letter refers to an email sent from Storey to Haas team principal Guenther Steiner, which seems to have recounted what Rich Energy did on Twitter this week: that the company was terminating the deal due to poor performance, and, a reason that wasn’t tweeted, for the removal of its stag logo from the cars after it was ruled to have infringed upon British company Whyte Bikes’ logo.

(Haas still ran Rich Energy colors at the British Grand Prix over the weekend, releasing a statement on Thursday that said Rich Energy was still its partner. Storey later said certain shareholders are trying to overthrow him.)

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That’s a breach of the sponsorship agreement between the two, the letter said, since Rich Energy wasn’t contractually able to terminate the deal until Dec. 1, 2022. It also mentions that performance expectations weren’t part of the agreement, and therefore aren’t a basis for terminating the deal.

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Haas has apparently decided to accept the breach, though, and wants 35 million pounds of damages, or $44 million at current exchange rates, within two weeks. Whyte Bikes told Jalopnik on Friday that Rich Energy failed to pay the company a court-ordered $45,000 by its deadline, and Storey did not respond to request for comment on that claim.

Jalopnik asked both Storey and Haas for confirmation that this is a legitimate letter sent by Haas’ legal representation, and will update this story if we hear back. The last time a similar letter was posted, Haas declined to comment and Storey did not respond.

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We’ve also asked Storey if he’s running the account. He hasn’t responded.

What’s interesting about the apparent letter, posted by the Rich Energy account itself without retractions, is that it, if legitimate, lines out the “sums due” by Rich Energy over the next two seasons. Here they are, emphasis ours:

Our client is therefore entitled to recover by way of damages from Rich Energy the £6m currently outstanding (for which an invoice has already been issued) as well as the sums due for the “Term Year” 2020, £14m and for the “Term Year” 2021, £15m thus a total of £35m.

For the sake of completeness, we deal with the two points raised by Mr Storey in his email. The first is that he alleges “major issues with our agreement and the performance of the team”. There is no basis in the Sponsorship Agreement on which Rich Energy are entitled to terminate the Agreement based on any performance criteria of the Haas F1 team.

Mr Storey also refers to the Rich Energy stag logo being removed for the F1 race in Canada. As Rich Energy and Mr Storey are well aware, the stag device was removed following a decision in the High Court in London that Rich Energy and Mr Storey had breached the copyright in this logo belonging to ATB Sales Limited. The suggestion that our client wrongly removed the infringing logo is therefore wholly unsupportable.

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If real, this means the mysterious energy-drink company out of Britain, which many questioned the existence of due to its limited distribution and murky past, agreed to pay 14 million pounds, or $17.6 million, for the 2020 race season, and 15 million pounds, or nearly $18.9 million, for 2021.

It’s not Mercedes-AMG Petronas money, estimated to be $75 million annually via Forbes and Formula Money, or Ferrari-Philip Morris, said to be $50 million, but it’s still a lot—especially for a company shown to have had 581 pounds in the bank in 2017. (Storey called that figure “irrelevant” when talking to Jalopnik.)

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It also shows the apparent details of a deal that neither Haas nor Rich Energy would elaborate on, which made it even more perplexing. Haas has supported its own race cars through Haas CNC, and it wasn’t clear how much Rich Energy was actually paying to be a “title partner” for the team.

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In addition to that, the letter posted by Rich Energy refers to its stag logo being removed before the Canadian Grand Prix in June, and seems to say that Storey suggested Haas “wrongly removed the infringing logo.”

When the logos were pulled, Rich Energy said it asked Haas to remove the logo because it didn’t “want any media circus” while Rich Energy fought, and later lost, what it referred to as a “baseless case” against it. Rich Energy said the directive came from itself, not Haas, which doesn’t seem to be the claim now.

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But this is the new normal in the world of Rich Energy and the Haas F1 team, whose rocky relationship over the past nine months or so is detailed, as full as we’ve been able to detail it, in the related stories you see below.

Who’s excited to see what happens on Twitter this week?

Update: Sunday, July 14, 2019 at 3:34 p.m. ET: Storey responded to Jalopnik via email, saying the email is “from Haas lawyers 100 percent.” Jalopnik was shown the email directly from the Jeremy Courtenay-Stamp at the Ebury Partnership with the subject “Our client: Haas Formula LLC.”

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An attachment in that email also included Storey’s original email to Steiner, which said “removing [the] stag logo unilaterally in Canada when not required undermined [Rich Energy] to the world’s media,” which suggests a different reality from how Rich Energy described the removal when it happened.

Storey said he remains CEO and the largest shareholder at Rich Energy, and has “the support of the board of Rich Energy.” He’s “consistently telling it as it is and Haas and the minority shareholders are not,” he wrote.

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“Their complicity in seeking to remove me as CEO (a position I of course still hold) is wholly unacceptable conduct given I did the deal with them and I gave personal guarantee,” Storey said via email. “It is like me seeking the removal of Gene Haas! Disgraceful.”

Haas has not responded to Jalopnik’s request for comment, but we will update this story if the team does.

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Update: Monday, July 15, 2019 at 1:50 p.m. ET: Haas declined to comment.

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About the author

Alanis King

Alanis King is a staff writer at Jalopnik.