The future of the DS Techeetah team has been thrown into doubt following the recent collapse of an intended investment deal.
The plans, which many expected to have been completed in the coming weeks, hit the buffers in recent days meaning that the short-term futures of both its drivers, Jean-Eric Vergne and Antonio Felix da Costa, are now unclear.
The Race can reveal that the interested party in buying into the multiple Formula E title-winning team was founder and CEO of blockchain company ‘Decentral’, Anthony Di Iorio. He is also a co-founder of the Ethereum cryptocurrency.
Di Iorio attended the New York City, London and Berlin races with DS Techeetah last season and planned to re-brand the team after completing a deal with present owners SECA, who would still have retained minority ownership of the team.
SECA, a sports media business owned by China Media Capital, founded the Techeetah team in July 2016 and is owned by Sheng Li, who also has a minority investment in Formula E Holdings Ltd.
SECA is known to have been looking at potential investors or new owners since the spring of 2019 and has held discussions with various parties since then.
The company is believed to currently be the third-largest stakeholder in Formula E Holdings Ltd, which is the registered Hong Kong-based holding company for the ABB FIA Formula E world championship.
Speaking exclusively to The Race about why the deal won’t happen, Di Iorio said: “It was a number of different reasons that, as a business decision, didn’t make sense at this time.
“I gave it my best efforts but there was a plethora of reasons why I was unable to proceed with the deal.
“I wish the team nothing but the best and I really hope things get sorted out on their end and it was amazing to get to know so many people there.”
Di Iorio had recently set up a British company called Di Iorio Racing Limited, which would have been a holding company for the new-look team had the transaction been completed.
One of the reasons for the breakdown of the deal is believed to have been the length of time which the agreement with SECA was taking.
Di Iorio started negotiations with DS Techeetah and SECA in June, but as of late August little progress is believed to have been made to ensure the transaction was concluded ahead of preparations for the 2022 season.
The Race understands that Di Iorio will now take several weeks off before deciding upon whether he re-focuses any potential involvement elsewhere in Formula E.
The planned investment bid was seen as the most serious potential offer on the table for fresh investment in the team, with Di Iorio having even visited the DS Performance headquarters in Satory, Paris in July. He also met and addressed staff several times over the course of the final three rounds.
The collapse of the deal now puts DS Techeetah on the back foot as it prepares for the 2022 season, which will also see testing and development of the Gen3 car begin.
The news of Di Iorio’s withdrawal from the planned deal is expected to have an effect on the futures of both Vergne and da Costa.
While da Costa does have one year left on his current contract with the team, Vergne is now effectively out of contract. Although counter-intuitively Vergne’s situation is believed to be a little clearer than da Costa’s.
This is because Vergne is employed by DS’ fellow Stellantis brand Peugeot for its Hypercar programme starting in 2022. Vergne is also understood to have an ambassadorial role with DS in addition to his employment by Techeetah via SECA.
Effectively, Vergne is limited in a Formula E sense to his next move, as it would be highly unlikely he could drive for a rival manufacturer because of his Hypercar deal and close links to Stellantis-owned companies.
Vergne told The Race last month that he would “wait and see if this team is still here or if something good will happen”.
“It [the new ownership] has come at the right time and there is a right attitude there, I think that makes me say, ‘yeah, I’ll be there next year’.”
Now Vergne faces the prospect of either forging a new deal to stay at the beleaguered team or concentrating solely on his dream of winning Le Mans with Peugeot.