Analysis: No smoke without fire as Apple/McLaren rumours fly
Apple and McLaren did hold talks about a potential future partnership, sources have indicated to Motorsport.com, but the discussions came to an end for unspecified reasons.
A report in the Financial Times on Wednesday claimed that technology giant Apple approached McLaren about potential investment.
It was suggested that this could have gone as far as a takeover of the McLaren Technology Group – which encompasses the McLaren Formula 1 team, McLaren Automotive and McLaren Applied Technology. The Financial Times cites three people briefed on the negotiations as its source for the story.
But shortly after the story broke, a carefully worded statement from McLaren made it clear that talks of an investment deal by Apple was incorrect.
"We can confirm that McLaren is not in discussion with Apple in respect of any potential investment," said a McLaren spokesman.
"As you would expect, the nature of our brand means we regularly have confidential conversations with a wide range of parties, but we keep them confidential."
Some interpreted that statement as a complete denial of the Financial Times story, but that is not the case. For often such official statements, especially from organisations as corporate as McLaren, are very specific in how they deny things.
In F1 circles in particular, there are often statements that come to be known as 'non-denial denials' - that they appear to discredit a story but don't actually do so.
The wording this time was not an outright dismissal of the FT story – it merely said that talks were not taking place right now.
What the second paragraph of the McLaren statement hints at – but does not confirm although sources have indicated is correct – is that talks with Apple did actually occur in the past but that these will not be confirmed because they were held in confidence.
When stories about negotiations between parties are leaked to the media, it often comes as the result of those talks collapsing – either through disgruntled parties wanting the story out there or as a last-ditch effort to try to get the talks back on the table.
Either could be the motive in this case, with it likely that the story has come from Apple's side.
While it is unclear if Apple and McLaren are still talking about any road-car collaboration outside of investment, the fact that they met in the first place is intriguing for F1.
As one of the world's biggest brands, a high-profile involvement by Apple in grand prix racing would be a ringing endorsement for the state of the sport – whether it was through straight sponsorship or involvement as a shareholder in a team.
The growing American focus on F1 that should come as the result of Liberty Media's involvement could signal the arrival of brands like Apple in future years, if the sport is taken 'to another level' as new chairman Chase Carey suggested last week.
For McLaren, it is always on the hunt for fresh partners to help build a brighter future.
And one of the abiding themes from social media reaction about the Apple/McLaren tie-up in the last 24 hours is how such a deal could have taken away much of the 'racer' DNA that has made the Woking-based team one of F1's biggest brands.
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