In the Pit Lane – Who is Formula 1’s Newest Billionaire Investor?
As F1 digests the arrival of the Mazepin family, the question remains, who is Dmitry Mazepin?
Mazepin is often described as a Russian oligarch born in Belarus who made his fortune in the Russian chemical and fertiliser industries through his ownership of Uralchem and potash fertiliser company Uralkali.
These positions make him one of the most important players in the Russian chemicals and fertiliser industries, which are among the most important industries in Russia.
His net worth is hard to ascertain, with estimates ranging from $1.3 billion to $7.1 billion, but either way he has a sizeable bank account! There have been numerous scandals and investigations over the years into Mazepin’s business dealings that question his tactics and corporate governance.
Recently, Mazepin has been in the international and Russian press as he has been active in Belarusian affairs – he proposed the formation of a committee in Belarus that would mediate between protesters and the Lukashenko government. Some sources speculate this is part of a move to take over Belaruskali, the state fertiliser company.
READ MORE IN THE PIT LANE: THE DILEMMA FACING SIR LEWIS HAMILTON
Mazepin’s attempt at buying Force India
Media articles from 2013-2016 described Mazepin as being close and maintaining influential connections with the Lukashenko government. Mazepin is not new to F1, with his attempt to purchase the Force India team a process which he lost to one Lawrence Stroll.
Mazepin fought back and filed a lawsuit claiming tender irregularities by the bid administrators overseeing the sale of the team. He said that the team that provided a lower offer won the bid, and as a result, Force India shareholders’ interests and profits were not prioritised.
The case was heard by Mr Justice Miles in the High Court over seven days in November 2020, and in a lengthy judgement issued in December, he dismissed all of Uralkali’s claims.
READ MORE OPINION: WHAT VALTTERI BOTTAS NEEDS TO DO IN 2021
Mazepin himself did not appear as a witness, and Uralkali was represented by director Paul Ostling. In his judgement, Justice Miles made it clear that the key player’s failure to appear in person had not helped Uralkali’s case.
It was also rumored that Mazepin was interested in purchasing the Williams F1 team, after his attempt to buy Force India went sour.
The Haas deal
Last October, he resurfaced with the speculated bid to buy out Gene Haas with the end result a sponsorship deal with the obligatory race seat for Jnr.
Despite being a wealthy oligarch with ties to the Kremlin, Mazepin has taken great care to date to avoid any public scrutiny, especially outside Russia where he remains almost completely unknown.
However, he has not completely evaded the attention of lawmakers in the US and Europe.
Mazepin was recently described by the prominent Washington think tank Atlantic Council, as someone that the U.S. government should consider for sanctions due to his apparent attempt to profit from recent unrest in Belarus to take over the Belarusian fertiliser giant Belaruskali, which would further consolidate his and Russia’s control of the global fertiliser industry.
READ MORE IN THE PIT LANE: ARE THE DAYS OF BIG MONEY DRIVER CONTRACTS HISTORY?
Both the US and the EU are looking to apply economic sanctions on Belarus in the coming months, and it is likely that Mazepin is in their crosshairs.
Mazepin is also accused in an Irish court of conducting a decade-long corporate raid (i.e., an illegal hostile takeover using corrupt law enforcement) against rival fertiliser company TogliattiAzot (ToAZ), using a host of illegal tactics. The legal proceedings against Mazepin are ongoing.
But it doesn’t stop there…
Mazepin has embarked on an aggressive African expansion in Zambia, Angola, Zimbabwe, and several other African countries. He is now Chairman of the Russia-Zimbabwe Business Council as part of the Kremlin’s efforts to expand Russian influence in Africa.
His companies Uralchem and Uralkali have significant investments in Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Angola, aligning with the Kremlin’s strategy to grow its influence in Africa. It will be of interest to Mazepin that F1 is closely looking at hosting a race in the African continent.
At a time when the US is considering further sanctions against Belarus (under the new Biden administration), the potential implications for Haas and F1 are particularly serious. You can only imagine Gene Haas pondering is it worth all the aggravation?
In the interests of balance, it is worth noting Mazepin is one of Russia’s biggest philanthropists, who supports, among other things, sports and has bought school busses for poor regions. In 2012 he purchased $700,000 worth of cars for large, low-income families.
Mazepin holds a PhD in Economics.
Garry Sloan is the author of “In the pit lane – F1 exposed” details at inthepitlane.com
Copyright ©2021 Garry Sloan