Rich Energy, the mysterious British energy-drink company plastered across the Haas Formula One Team’s cars, is having quite the week. From a later-refuted statement that it would end its Haas partnership over “poor performance” and “PC attitude,” to an apparent power struggle within the company, things are weird as ever at the would-be beverage empire.
If this were a television show, we’d be at the point when all of the characters are doing different things and no one knows what’s going on, except that it’s bad.
On Friday, the Rich Energy Twitter account shared a photo of a letter alluding to an attempt to oust CEO William Storey. Hours later, Whyte Bikes, the company that sued Rich Energy over its logo and won, told Jalopnik that the company has failed to pay its court-ordered debts. (And it’s not even that much money, all things considered.)
In the latest development, the Rich Energy Twitter account, which seems to be under the control of Storey, posted a photo that appears to show a letter from a legal firm representing Haas to a Rich Energy shareholder. The apparent letter was addressed to Neville Weston, a minority shareholder as listed by Companies House, from the Ebury Partnership on behalf of Haas.
The tweet hashtagged Storey’s name, as well as tagging the accounts for the Haas team, F1, and Top Gear presenter Chris Harris, who’s been in a Twitter feud with the company for a while now.
Weird is normal for the Rich Energy account.
The apparent letter mentioned an email sent to Haas team principal Guenther Steiner from Weston, but didn’t say what the email was about. The rest of it is as follows, emphasis ours:
Our clients’ position vis a vis Rich Energy Limited and Mr Storey is as set out in the open letters, copies of which are attached.
We understand that you are seeking to take control of the company away from Mr Storey, the current CEO. If that comes to pass, then our client will be happy to engage in without prejudice conversations with you but they will need to see clear and unambiguous evidence that Mr Storey has been removed as a director of the company and that a new CEO has been validly appointed in his place.
Given the information available at Companies House on Rich Energy Limited, including its shareholder base, we are somewhat at a loss as to how you will be able to wrestle control of the company from Mr Storey.
Furthermore there is the outstanding claim for damages against the company for copyright infringement in relation to its logo so that our clients are rightly concerned about the solvency/ongoing viability of the company.
The Companies House document from 2018 lists Storey as holding 64 of 100 shares, while Weston holds two.
The tweet didn’t include photos of the apparent “open letters” stating Haas’ position in relation to Rich Energy or Storey, but Jalopnik asked Storey, Haas and Weston what was in them. Jalopnik asked each about whether the legal letter is legitimate and about the contents of the apparent “open letters” from Haas about Storey, as well as asking Storey if he has full control over the Rich Energy account and how he got access to the apparent letter.
Haas declined to comment further than a statement made earlier this week that said Rich Energy remains its title partner.
Jalopnik has yet to hear back from the others. We’ll update this story if we do.
Not long after the Rich Energy Twitter account posted the letter, Whyte Bikes, the company that sued Rich Energy for copyright infringement over its stag-head logo and won, told Jalopnik that Rich Energy and other defendants in the case hit a court-ordered deadline to pay costs totaling 35,416 pounds, or more than $44,500 at current exchange rates, without paying.
The deadline was July 11, and the defendants were Rich Energy, Storey, and Staxoweb, the company that designed the Rich Energy logo.
A representative for Whyte Bikes said they have “failed to pay any of the costs award[ed].”
“Each of the Defendants is jointly liable for the whole amount of costs awarded,” the representative said. “[Whyte Bikes] will now be forced to take appropriate action to recover the costs that they have been awarded. This may include applications to the Court to wind up both Rich Energy and Staxoweb and to petition for the bankruptcy of Mr Storey.”
We also reached out to Storey for comment on the Whyte Bikes claim, and will update this story if we hear back.
Aside from the mystery of Rich Energy itself, this recent mess all started with a post from the Rich Energy Twitter account Wednesday, which said the company had “terminated [its] contract” with Haas. The tweet cited “poor performance” after Haas driver Kevin Magnussen finished behind a Williams race car at the Austrian Grand Prix, as well as the “politics” and “PC attitude” in F1 inhibiting business.
Haas responded roughly half a day later, quoting Steiner in a Twitter statement that said Rich Energy was “currently” the team’s title partner and that there was no further comment. Other Rich Energy shareholders later blamed the termination tweet on the “rogue actions” of one employee, mentioning that they are “in the process of legally removing the individual from all executive responsibilities.” The executive wasn’t named, but it’s assumed to be Storey.
Storey, in response, told Jalopnik via email that he owns more than 51 percent of the Rich Energy shares, and said there “has been an attempted coup of [his] position by a handful of shareholders who have a cosy relationship with Red Bull and Whyte bikes [sic].” (Rich Energy is in a seemingly one-sided fierce competition with Red Bull.)
Storey said the shareholders, whom he identified as led by Weston and Charlie Simpson, “failed in their efforts.”
Now, we’re here, with apparent legal letters circling around on Twitter and a power struggle within Rich Energy, all while Whyte Bikes tries to collect its court winnings over a logo. It’s really just another week on the internet.
Update: Saturday, July 13, 2019 at 12:40 p.m. ET: Rich Energy is still tweeting.