After months of rumors and speculation, Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll confirmed he led the purchase of a 16.7% stake in Aston Martin for £182 million ($239 million). The investment is part of a £500 million ($656 million) round of emergency funding that will help the British automaker overcome serious financial challenges.
Yew Tree Overseas Limited, a consortium of international investors led by Stroll, built its stake by buying 45.6 million new ordinary Aston Martin shares on the London Stock Exchange, according to Autocar. Aston Martin raised the remaining £318 million ($417 million) by giving existing investors the opportunity to buy more shares, the BBC learned. It's not a full bailout, but it's close. Aston Martin ended 2019 in dire financial straits.
Stroll will replace Penny Hughes as Aston Martin's chairman; CEO Andy Palmer is expected to keep his job. Several sources confirmed the Racing Point Formula One team owned by Stroll will be rebranded Aston Martin after the 2020 season, and Autocar reported the company will quickly need to eliminate jobs and slash costs.
"The difficult trading performance in 2019 resulted in severe pressure on liquidity, which has left the company with no alternative but to seek substantial additional equity financing. Without this, the balance sheet is not robust enough to support the operations of the group," Hughes admitted in an interview with the BBC.
Stroll's' appointment to the Aston Martin board comes as the company prepares to overhaul its product plan. It notably confirmed the rumors claiming it put the battery-powered Rapide project on the back burner until further notice, and it delayed plans to revive the Lagonda nameplate on a series of extra-luxurious electric vehicles until after 2025. The first car was originally scheduled to reach the market in 2022, but the battery technology is expensive to develop, and Aston must save about 10 million pounds (around $13 million) annually.
The firm will instead focus on mid-engined sports cars. Still according to Autocar, it will begin delivering the 1,160-horsepower Valkyrie hypercar this year, and it's on track to launch the Valhalla in 2022. The Vanquish will go mid-engined shortly after. Delaying electric cars doesn't mean abandoning electrification, and Aston Martin hopes to release "a fuel-efficient, modular V6 engine with hybrid capabilities" by the middle of the 2020s. Its partnership with Red Bull Advanced Technologies — which spawned the aforementioned Valkyrie — is on ice, however.
The news of Stroll's sizable investment untangles one of the strings in the latticework allegedly tying Aston Martin to China's Geely and Mercedes-Benz's Formula One team. As of writing, rumors that Geely — which owns Volvo, among many others — is also seeking a stake in Aston Martin remain unconfirmed, and the reports claiming Stroll will help Mercedes-AMG Petronas principal Toto Wolff take over the team are still unverified.
We'll update this developing story as more information becomes available.