How Billionaire Toto Wolff Built Mercedes’ F1 Team Into An Auto Racing Dynasty

Born in Vienna, Toto Wolff dreamed of becoming a race car driver since childhood. He came up short chasing his passion—in part because he is too tall at six-foot-five—and soon shifted to business. He founded Vienna-based tech incubator March fifteen in 1998, spending his days cold calling potential investors. Two years later, at 28, Wolff notched a profit of more than $30 million, almost entirely from the sales of text-messaging outfit UCP and video game publisher JoWooD. Flush with cash, he wound down his company and returned to his first love, auto racing, and started managing junior drivers. That led him to engine maker HWA AG, which supplied Mercedes’ lower-level racing teams. He bought 49% of HWA in 2006 and later helped take it public in a $175 million IPO, netting himself an additional $85 million.

Wolff invested in the Williams F1 racing team a few years later and helped deliver a stunning Spanish Grand Prix victory in 2012. That same year Mercedes was struggling and invited Wolff to Stuttgart to tap his expertise. He bluntly told them they were vastly under-budgeting the team, and Mercedes replied by offering him the top job. Wolff agreed, but only under the stipulation that he could buy in as a co-owner. In 2013, he departed Williams and took a 30% ownership stake in Mercedes at a $165 million valuation, Forbes estimates.

In 2021, the last year Mercedes won the Constructors’ title, the team posted its best results ever under Wolff, with revenue of $529 million and Ebidta of $128 million. Although the organization has yet to release its 2022 figures, Forbes estimates it will exceed those marks by roughly 10% and 30%, respectively.

Such turbocharged revenue has translated directly into team value. Forbes valued the Mercedes team in 2019 at $1 billion and estimates it has at least doubled since. Wolff owns 33% of the team—most of which he purchased in 2013 for an estimated $50 million—constituting the cornerstone of his $1 billion fortune. In essence, he has built a brand akin to the Dallas Cowboys, which remains the world’s most valuable sports franchise at $8 billion despite a 27-year Super Bowl drought.

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