McLaren Denies Reports Of Apple Takeover

McLaren driver Fernando Alonso during practice at the Circuit of the Americas. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
McLaren driver Fernando Alonso during practice at the Circuit of the Americas. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

Could Apple be coming to Formula One after all? A new report says that the tech giant approached team owners McLaren Technology Group but McLaren denies anything is happening.

Apple Computer didn’t buy Formula One, but they may still be becoming involved with the sport, depending on who you believe.

The Financial Times reported this week that Apple has started talks with McLaren Technology Group – which controls a majority of the McLaren F1 squad – about acquisition. According to the Times, Apple is considering either a full takeover of McLaren or a strategic investment, and talks between the two sides have been underway for several weeks now.

But on Wednesday the latter denied the report, with an unnamed McLaren representative telling Business Insider that it was “completely untrue.”

And things got further interesting when the New York Times published a third article Wednesday quoting McLaren’s Wayne Bruce, who sent something of a mixed message. NYT quoted Bruce as saying that his company was “not in discussion with Apple” but then adding that “We’re not in a position to confirm or deny any previous conversation.”

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So who’s right and who’s wrong? It might take awhile to know, but we do know why Apple would be interested and how it matters to Formula One.

The owners of McLaren Technology Group control 80 percent of McLaren Automotive. The automotive division produced 1,654 vehicles last year, generating revenues of 450 million pounds, and has pledged to invest another one billion pounds in the next six years on research and development.

McLaren are considered industry leaders in the field of automotive technology, and have been widely regarded for revolutionizing on-board computer systems and integrating the usage of carbon-fiber in the chassis of their cars.

The company is currently believed to be valued at between one billion and 1.5 billion pounds, according to the Financial Timesreport. That means if a deal was actually completed, a purchase of McLaren would be the largest in Apple’s history since their three billion dollar purchase of Beats Electronics in 2014.

It’s also the latest sign that the iPhone manufacturer is keen on breaking into the automotive world. They have been developing a self-driving electric vehicle nicknamed “Project Titan,” and earlier this year Apple invested nearly one billion dollars into China-based Didi Chuxing, a ride-hailing company.

The uptick in major investments by chief executive Tim Cook are a stray from the normal model set under the company’s last CEO, Steve Jobs, who almost notoriously stayed away from getting involved in large deals.

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Apple had been previously linked to a rumored purchase of Formula One itself, a deal pundits pegged as part of Apple’s car project.

Acquiring the entire league would have had obvious benefits in access and development as the company became associated with F1’s major motor brands – something that could still happen albeit to a lesser extent if Apple connects with McLaren.

A full Formula One deal would have also provided Apple TV exclusive digital content rights to the sport’s coverage. But that deal never came to fruition, as Formula One were acquired by Liberty Media Corporation last week, so perhaps Apple has found a suitable Plan B. Or not – it depends on who you want to believe.