I’ve spotted yet another strange thing about Rich Energy

[ Posted to DriveTribe by Danny Herbert on the 29th October 2021 ]

Rich Energy. A name which to the minds of most in the Formula 1 paddock conjures up one word – pathetic.

Be reassured this article is not simply another scathing defamation of the “premium British energy drink.” That would simply be adding insult to their plethora of injuries.

Instead I’ll have a gentle look at the history of the brand and its CEO, and a slightly less gentle look at the ins and outs of the company.

THE WILLIAM STOREY

William John Storey is described as a British businessman, originating from Richmond-on-Thames. He studied mathematics at the University of St Andrews and says he was once a professional footballer, professional gambler, part of the RAF, and a Zimbabwean tobacco farmer.

“For two years I was a professional gambler and in recent years made significant bets on the outcome of the US elections and on the Referendum. This philosophy on risk undoubtedly informs my business strategy,” he said.

He also reportedly financed his University study by developing “a trading algorithm for horseracing using mathematics,” which not only paid for his degree through direct earnings from it, but also formed part of the degree itself.

William John Storey is certainly not a conventional entrepeneur or businessman on any front.

Later he founded a sports management company (William Storey Management) through connections made through his professional footballer stint. This valuable network of contacts was essential when subsequently founding Rich Energy in 2015 and joining the global stage of F1 in 2019.

The idea for the name ‘Rich Energy’ came off the back of his close association with Richmond-on-Thames, where he has his closest familial ties and is described as a great supporter of the region.

“I guess I have always been a contrarian. I don’t like being told what to do. I don’t like clichés and I don’t like following the crowd. I certainly don’t do what is expected of me,” Storey admits.

A NOTEWORTHY TIMELINE

Let’s take a look into the not-so-distant past and decipher some of Rich Energy’s illustrious history. According to Wikipedia and Rich Energy themselves, the project to create a “premium energy drink” began back in 2009 but with the brand being founded six years later in 2015 by Mr Storey.

There is very little information on the company between its founding date and its first public flirtations with Formula 1 at the time of Force India’s fall into administration in July 2018. Vijay Mallya’s team was eventually purchased by Lawrence Stroll’s Racing Point UK consortium but for a price William Storey later alledged was “lower than what [Rich Energy] offered.”

Storey was a high profile critic of Stroll and clearly previously had his sights set on a majority buyout of Force India. Many outsiders believed he and Rich Energy had no financial means of ever achieving that aim.

At the US Grand Prix Storey was seen walking the grid with then Deputy Team Principal of Williams, Claire Williams, with a deal with the British team getting as far as designing a mock livery – something the drinks brand seem to be partial to.

In October 2018 it was announced that Rich Energy would be title sponsor of Haas from the start of 2019. However in May 2019 came the infamous Whyte Bikes court case against the brand, in which William Storey’s apparent defense of plagiarising the bicycle brand’s logo was to claim he “did not know anything about Whyte Bikes.”

Haas’s financial stability weighed heavily on the Rich Energy title sponsorship deal, with midfield and ‘backmarker’ teams often struggling to permeate sponsor space.

It is worth noting that from the highs of 2018, the Ferrari-powered Haas team were enduring a miserable low in terms of pace in race trim and over a race distance in 2019. But it was still an abrupt announcement when the Rich Energy HQ twitter announced the end of Haas’s title sponsorship deal on the 10th July 2019, eloquently blaming the team’s “poor performance and F1’s politics and attitude.”

The next day Storey attempted to U-turn the decision and suggest the post was as a result of the “rogue actions of one individual.”

Days later Rich Energy was officially but quietly renamed ‘Lightning Volt Ltd’, according to Companies House. On the same day Storey apparently resigns along with business partner Zoran Terzic.

On the 18th July 2019 (two days later), the Rich Energy HQ Twitter (still sporting the same name) leaks alleged court documents supposedly accusing Red Bull GmbH of taking the brand to court for copying Red Bull’s advertising slogans.

The next day (19th July), a brand new company is created by the name of ‘Rich Energy Ltd’ as Storey and Terzic resign from Lighting Volt (the original Rich Energy).

A month later in August 2019, Storey and Terzic are re-appointed at Lightning Volt having seemingly sold the stake in the new Rich Energy Ltd company. But according to reports Storey quickly buys back his shares of the new Rich Energy from then Director Matthew Kell, and Kell resigns.

Days later on the 9th September 2019, post-Italian Grand Prix, Haas announce the termination of the deal with Rich Energy and the subsequent removal of all its branding from their assets.

All of these business moves are incredibly baffling, but the long-and short of it is that the Rich Energy now listed on Companies House is not the original Rich Energy which first sponsored Haas in early 2019. During the interim period between Rich Energy’s end of sponsorship tweet (10th July) and Haas finally terminating the deal in September, Rich Energy was actually called Lightning Volt. But the original name and tweaked logos still appeared on the Haas cars.

Another strange misdemeanour concerning Storey is that Companies House only lists him under Lightning Volt, which was declared insolvent in October 2020 and liquidated in January 2021. He is the “only active person with significant control” there at the original Rich Energy but the company seems to be dormant.

There is no mention of Storey or Zoran Terzic under the new Rich Energy Ltd company – not even under resignations. However reports seem to imply that Storey is at least a shareholder.

Only in the last week Storey was seen on the BTCC grid for the Brands Hatch finale, since BTC Racing driver Michael Crees is sponsored by Rich Energy – a deal begun in July 2020. Therefore this confirms Storey’s continuing involvement in Rich Energy which is seemingly the new company out of the two.

IS IT REALLY RETURNING TO F1?

The somewhat entertaining ‘Rich Energy HQ’ Twitter account recently shared a seemingly huge hint of a return to the sport it offended so vividly.

A post simply titled “Chapter Two” showed the right rear quarter of what on-first-glance was clearly a 2022 Formula 1 car with the customary black and gold Rich Energy livery adorning it rather nicely.

No matter how horrific the company’s last stint in F1 was – as the first ever title sponsor of the Haas F1 Team back in 2019 – there was no denying the attributes of the black and gold ‘John Player Special Lotus-esque’ livery.

On further glances there are a few things to pick up on about this 2022 car. Firstly, an obvious feature of the brand new rear wing endplate portion of the car sees a standard Rich Energy logo accompanied by a small white trapezium shaped F1 logo. Not the actual F1 logo – a clearly fake one.

There are no Pirelli markings on the sidewall of the tyre and the visible part of the rear diffuser and exit of the Venturi tunnels just looks a little odd. It turns out the car and image used is from the image mockups website yellowimages.com, with custom F1 2022 car liveries available for only $14.99!

Today the Rich Energy HQ Twitter teased an “exclusive” announcement at 2pm only to frustratingly reveal the front portion of the mockup mule car instead.

What the past has told us about the relationship between Rich Energy and social media is that it features a consistently preeminent web of lies and bending of the truth. From my point of view nevertheless, their marketing strategy is pure genius. It clearly works a treat – and works at the notion that all publicity is good publicity – as here I am writing about them. I can refer back to what William Storey said on himself – “I don’t like following the crowd. I don’t do what is expected.”

That perfectly sums up Rich Energy. They play on stupidity, eccentricity and pantomime to drive engagement. The brand recognition is through the roof and past the clouds.

Eventhough no-one really wants them back in F1, I’m sure you’ll keep following them on Twitter. For the comedy value at least.

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