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MAY 16, 2001

Who takes share in Ilmor after Paul Morgan?

THE future composition of the shareholdings in Ilmor Engineering have become a matter for considerable speculation in F1 circles following the death of the company's Managing Director, Paul Morgan, in an aeroplane accident on 12 May.

Morgan, who was the technical and administrative driving force behind the company which manufactures Mercedes-Benz F1 racing engines, held a 25 per cent stake in the company he had founded in partnership with fellow former Cosworth engineer Mario Illien back in 1983. Illien also owns 25-per cent of the business with equal stakes held by DaimlerChrysler and the US-based Penske corporation.

As this is a private company it is difficult for outsiders to accurately place a value on its total shareholdings. Suggestions that Ilmor might be worth in excess of £100 million pounds have speculative both in the sense that there is no accurate means for outsiders to gauge such value and that much of any theoretical value depends on their close relationship as a partner of DaimlerChrysler.

Nevertheless, as probably the most accomplished F1 engine manufacturer currently in the business, 25 per cent of Ilmor is extremely valuable. There is inevitably speculation that DaimlerChrysler might consider purchasing Morgan's 25 per cent stake to gain an absolute controlling interest, but it is far too early to judge whether this will in fact happen.

It is also quite feasible that the TAG McLaren group might seek to purchase Morgan's stake and such a deal, in many ways, might seem to be the most satisfactory for all concerned.

As DaimlerChrysler owns 40 per cent of TAG McLaren, it would effectively be a way of the German car maker increasing its stake in the company while McLaren would have an investment in a state-of-the-art F1 engine builder as a hedge against the day that the major car makers perhaps decide that Grand Prix racing has run its course as a worthwhile promotional tool.

Either way, for the forseable future Ilmor will continue it is current role of building some of the best F1 engines in the business. McLaren and Mercedes between them will help see to that with as much help as is needed during what is obviously a very sad period for Illien and his 400-plus workforce.