Mercedes F1 team boss Wolff may be one of Formula 1's most recognizable off-track figures and its most successful team principal in recent years. But did you know that he's also one of the paddock's richest members and a newly minted billionaire with a net worth estimated to be around $1.6 billion and growing?
Austria's Wolff, 52, entered motorsport as a racing driver, racing in Austrian and German Formula Ford in the 1990s, winning the 1994 24 Hours of Nürburgring, and entering several GT championships in the 2000s. But while motorsport remains the source of his fame and most of his fortune, he forged his early business career outside of it as the founder of investment companies Marchfifteen and Marchsixteen.
Venture capital firm Marchfifteen, co-founded with René Berger in 1998, capitalized on the technology sector boom at the turn of the millennium. Wolff and Berger's business deals included investments in UCP, an Austrian text message software provider sold to Amdocs for $275 million in 2006; structuring the early financing and IPO for video game publisher Jowood; and arranging the first round of financing and the 2000 stock market listing of interactive simulations company Sysis, which was sold to Verisign in 2006. From his Marchfifteen investments, Wolff recouped around $30 million.
Through Marchsixteen, which focused on mature technology companies in Austria, co-founded with Berger and Michael Sares in 2005, Wolff made notable investments in Swissies and Fatfoogoo, the latter of which was acquired in 2010 by Digital River for $10 million. Wolff saw motorsport, once his hobby, as his next opportunity to make money. He first entered driver management, founding a management agency with newly retired two-time F1 champion Mika Häkkinen during the 2000s.
By 2006, Wolff bought 49% of German racing team HWA AG, known for its alliance with Mercedes in the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM) series. As co–CEO, he helped arrange for its public listing on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange in 2007 in a $175 million IPO, which garnered him a further $85 million.
Formula One seemed inevitable, and Wolff's first direct involvement came in 2009 by purchasing a 16.3% stake in the family-run Williams F1 team and joining its board of directors. The nine-time constructors' champions had fallen on hard times on track and had not won a race since 2004.
Wolff, the only owner outside of co-founders Frank Williams and Patrick Head, aimed to play a role in turning their fortunes around.
He brokered this deal through Nextmarch, his latest investing venture, which he also leveraged to help arrange Williams' own IPO on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange with 24% of its shares in 2011. The company's valuation at its IPO was around $345 million, and Wolff garnered a small share of the $70.5 million windfall.
Williams' share price dropped to nearly half that value by the end of the year, but a rebound in performance came in 2012 when the team took its first victory in nearly eight years at the Spanish Grand Prix. The win brought the share price back to a peak of around $30 at the end of the year. Williams had promoted Wolff to executive director in July of that year, but he left in January 2013 to become Mercedes F1's new CEO and the head of Mercedes-Benz's motorsport division.
As part of that team swap, he sold off most of his remaining Williams shares over the next three years to American investor Brad Hollinger, though just under 5% were still in Wolff's hands as recently as 2020. That year, he also bought a 0.95% stake in Aston Martin Lagonda, which joined the F1 grid in 2021. At the time of writing, Aston Martin is valued at about $1.2 billion, a substantial decrease from its 2020 valuation.
Central to his 2013 move to Mercedes was taking a 30% stake in Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd, then worth about $50 million, with the intention of growing an entity he believed was undervalued and underperforming on track. Wolff turned the team around, taking Mercedes not only to eight consecutive constructors' championships but increasing the company's valuation from $165 million in 2013 to $695 million in 2017, $1.15 billion in 2019, and $3.8 billion in 2023.
The popularity of the Drive to Survive Netflix show, a docudrama detailing F1 stories from behind the scenes, and the implementation of a sport-wide cost cap in 2022 has substantially boosted profits for F1's ten teams and top executives such as Wolff. Ever the businessman, the Austrian upped his share in the team to 33% at the end of 2020.
Wolff's share of Mercedes alone is now worth almost $1.3 billion, which, along with his other investments and assets, puts his net worth at an estimated $1.6 billion — among the highest of anyone in F1's elite circle.