Belfast entrepreneur in £30m drive to put F1 team Marussia back on track
An entrepreneur from Northern Ireland has made a major investment to save the beleaguered Formula One team Manor.
Ovo Energy chief and Belfast native Stephen Fitzpatrick has put in £30m of his own money to help the team, called Marussia last season, get out of administration.
The former pupil of Our Lady and St Patrick's College has joined up with ex-Sainsbury's boss Justin King to ensure Manor will be on the starting grid for the first race of the season in Australia in 10 days time.
Mr Fitzpatrick (37) said he will use his business experience to ensure the team under his ownership will "not be the black hole of the Fitzpatrick family finances".
He said: "For me the sport is about knowing what your budget is and getting the best out of that, which is something Justin and I feel very strongly about.
"There are no miracle answers in Formula One finance, but a lot of hard work that we need to put in, and we need to be disciplined in order to maintain financial sustainability.
"But ultimately it is a business like any other, and we need to make sure there is good governance, attention to detail, as well as great engineering and design.
Mr Fitzpatrick has praised the support of fellow petrolhead Mr King, head of Sainsbury's for 10 years until last July. "For me, Justin has been a huge help in navigating the landmines, especially as this is the first company I've bought," Mr Fitzpatrick said.
"It was a very complex landscape, with a lot of legal and financial challenges, and now, in 10 days' time, we will be in Melbourne with a solid business platform on which to operate."
In October last year the Manor team went into administration, and as a result, missed the last three races of the season.
Mark Gallagher, F1 expert and author of 'Business of Winning' along with David Coulthard, believes Mr Fitzpatrick will prove a success in the sport.
"I think Stephen is an ideal candidate to invest in Manor as he has run a successful business and brings a huge amount of management experience."
"Manor can certainly do with his investment, but more important than just money is having strong effective leadership and direction. Between himself and Justin King they can guide the team's affairs much better than has been the case in the past."
Manor has had an erratic past since entered F1 in 2010, but Mr Gallagher feels Mr Fitzpatrick can provide stability for the team. "First they were called Virgin Racing, then refinanced by Lloyds Development Corporation, and later sold to Russian car manufacturer Marussia.
"In each case there wasn't a viable, long-term business plan. I think Stephen Fitzpatrick and Justin King will make a good job of it with the right people and the right plan."
Stephen Fitzpatrick founded consumer-focused Ovo in Bristol in 2009 to challenge the market dominance of the 'Big Six' energy firms in Great Britain. Last year, the Belfast businessman, who is expecting his third child this month with wife Sophy, won the Entrepreneur of the Year category at the National Business Awards. Prior to setting up the challenger energy firm he worked as a trader for JP Morgan.