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Lotus F1 sells shares to Yota Devices

NEWS STORY
28/02/2014

Russian telecoms company Yota Devices has completed its acquisition of a 10% stake in the Lotus F1 team from its majority shareholder, the private equity firm Genii.

Yota manufactures the world's first always-on smartphone meaning that the screen does not black out when it is switched off. Instead it reverts to a low light level like that found in e-book readers. The device is named YotaPhone and the brand has become a partner of Lotus F1 as well as its owner taking a stake in the team.

It is the second acquisition in the team in the past 12 months as in May last year Genii's founder Gerard Lopez revealed to Pitpass that property magnate Andrew Ruhan "has purchased, if I am not mistaken, 2% of the equity to be on the board and feel involved."

The Yota acquisition was first reported in January and it was confirmed in Lotus F1 company documents which were filed on 25 February. They state that the allotment of shares took place on 23 January. The following day, a statement on the Lotus F1 website read that "YotaPhone shareholders will become important partners to Genii and YotaPhone a sponsor to the Lotus F1 team this year."

Three days after the statement was released, the report about the investment was published and stated that "it is not clear how big the stake is, but sources have suggested that it is around 10 per cent." The company documents confirm this as they show that 6,744,444 shares were allotted in addition to the existing 60,700,000.

It has not been revealed how much Yota paid for the stake as the document simply shows the nominal value of the shares which is £1 each. The final transaction price is likely to be higher than the nominal value.

The document was signed by Mr Lopez and his Genii colleague Eric Lux and it states that it should be returned to Andrew Gay at the law firm JAG Shaw Baker. As can be clearly seen from the document, Lotus F1 Team limited is described as "the ‘Company'" and JAG Shaw Baker is described as "the Company's solicitors." Despite this simple wording instruction, an erroneous report has claimed that JAG Shaw Baker itself is the buyer and that the team has agreed to a six-month option to sell nine percent of its shares to it.

Mr Gay, who is a corporate and venture capital lawyer for JAG Shaw Baker, says that "the report is incorrect. JAG Shaw Baker acts as legal counsel for the Lotus F1 team."

Eliza Dabney, co-founder and director of Sepia Communications, which works with JAG Shaw Baker, added that "we are addressing the issue." It would appear that the initial report was written by someone who didn't understand the original document.

Christian Sylt

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