The Formula One world turns remarkably quickly, and the rise of a Canadian billionaire that few in the sport had heard of a decade ago epitomizes the everchanging nature of F1. Lawrence Stroll has morphed from being an unknown figure at the pinnacle of motorsport to leading the charge to break the stranglehold of the so-called 'big three' atop the F1 ladder. But how did he get there?
Stroll's formidable net worth of $3.9 billion puts him among the 1,000 wealthiest people in the world. The executive chairman of Aston Martin and father of F1 driver Lance is also a fashion tycoon who took several brands, whose products may even reside in your wardrobe, to international stardom.
Lawrence entered the fashion world with the help of his father, Leo Strulovitch, a fashion importer who helped bring Pierre Cardin and Ralph Lauren to Canada. When Lawrence turned 17 in 1976, Leo gave him the license to Pierre Cardin's children's wear line, which he expanded over the next decade.
Image: Shutterstock/Motorsport photographer
Meanwhile, he and Hong Kongese investor Silas Chou, his most enduring business collaborator, partnered to expand Ralph Lauren's European presence over the next decade.
His next pivotal move came in 1989 when he and Chou stepped back from Ralph Lauren to co-found Sportswear Holdings Limited. The pair purchased a 70% stake in Tommy Hilfiger that same year, and over the next 13 years, the company's value rose enough to make the early investment very lucrative. Highlights included the company's initial IPO in 1992 and three secondary public offerings in each of the following years.
By 1996, a leadership group featuring Stroll, Chou, and fellow entrepreneur Joel J. Horowitz had made a combined $325 million on an initial investment of $206,000, an extraordinary 157,767% return on investment. Stroll, who oversaw day-to-day management as well as marketing and product development, reduced his involvement and eventually bowed out in June 2002 to focus on his ownership of British retailer Asprey & Gerrard.
After leaving Hilfiger, Sportswear looked for the next ambitious fashion designer and found Michael Kors, where they bought an 85 percent stake. Upon the Kors brand's initial public offering in December 2011, the company had a valuation of $3.8 billion.
Kors' share values quadrupled in the following years, and Sportswear Holdings continued to reduce its presence until September 2014. At this point, Stroll and Chou sold their last 5.7%, worth roughly $893 million, in a secondary public offering. After taking a second fashion company to global recognition, Stroll and Chou had each accumulated a net worth of roughly $2.3 billion.
Image: Aston Martin F1
A longtime admirer of motorsport and collector of luxury cars who also owned Québec's Mont-Tremblant Circuit from 2000 to 2022, Stroll pivoted his investments to the automotive sector as his son rose to Formula 1 in 2017. In the middle of 2018, he led a consortium of investors, including Chou, in purchasing the Force India F1 team's assets in a $117 million deal.
The new Racing Point team picked up where Force India left off, and a few months later, Lance, at that time F1's second-youngest podium finisher and race starter in history, was signed to the team for 2019.
Aspiring to take control of the roads as well, Lawrence, through the Yew Tree consortium, made a roughly $240 million investment for 16.7 percent ownership of the struggling Aston Martin marque in January 2020, becoming its new executive chairman in the process. He renamed Racing Point to Aston Martin F1 for the 2021 season, marking the return of the legendary British carmaker's name to the F1 grid after a 60-year hiatus.
Image: Aston Martin F1
As stock prices fell during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Stroll upped his stake in Aston Martin to 25 percent and toyed with increasing and decreasing his investment several times in the following months.
As the 2022 results show, making Aston Martin profitable may take some time. However, the F1 team has made significant progress. Following back-to-back seventh-place finishes as a constructor with drivers Lance Stroll and four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel, the team surged to join the frontrunners in 2023. New team leader Fernando Alonso took five podiums in the first six races, and both driver and team sit third in their respective championships at the time of writing.
The rapid climb up the 10-car F1 field comes after a significant overhaul of the on-site facilities that Stroll inherited with the Racing Point buyout. A three-stage F1 factory construction — F1’s first newly built facility of such a scale since 2004 — is midway through completion. It is expected to help create cars as state-of-the-art as the facilities.
Image: Aston Martin F1
Furthermore, Aston Martin’s overt investment appeals to the engineering world, allowing the team to acquire key staff from elsewhere in the paddock, such as Dan Fallows from Red Bull, Luca Furbatto from Alfa Romeo, and ex-McLaren Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh.
Given Stroll's financial clout, a new engine deal with Honda for 2026, and two-time F1 champion Alonso performing at the top of his game, Aston Martin has all the ingredients to shake up the pecking order as it chases a maiden F1 title.
With multiple success stories in Lawrence Stroll's wake and Aston Martin F1's 2023 statement, it seems it's only a matter of time before Formula 1 becomes the Canadian billionaire's next conquest.