For a bright businessman who speaks fluently in seven languages, and has been at the cutting edge of new technology business for more than a decade, it was almost inevitable that Gerard Lopez would eventually end up in Formula 1. Yet little is known in F1 about the Luxembourg entrepreneur whose Genii Capital company has bought into the Renault team and who promises to bring fresh ideas to the sport at this time of great change.
Lopez is a graduate from Miami University and, after leaving with a bachelor's degree in management information systems and operational management, he quickly set about climbing up the business ladder. His early efforts were with Icon Solutions, one of the first web development companies, and through it he soon acquired a host of Fortune 1000 companies.
After heading an e-finance practice company from 1995 to 1998, he founded Mangrove Capital Partners – an investment firm based in Luxembourg. Although Mangrove has been involved in a wide range of businesses, from private equity to funds and early stage technology, it is perhaps most famously known as being an early investor in Skype, the internet telephone service.
Mangrove also brought Lopez into direct contact with F1 through its involvement with the Gravity Sport Management company that looks after a host of young drivers, including Chinese Ho-Pin Tung.
As well as Mangrove, Lopez is chairman of Genii Capital, the company which he runs with chairman Eric Lux and has taken direct responsibility for the involvement with Renault.
Despite his high profile in the business community, Lopez prefers to shy away from the public spotlight – and prefers to keep to himself rather than get exposure through interviews. However, he did recently speak at the Motor Sport Business Forum in Monaco and offer a glimpse of the future where he felt F1 could be heading.
"We see the whole environment as providing an opportunity," he said. "We've been involved in Formula 1 for some time as friends for some people, but never thought about getting more heavily involved than that. The situation is such right now that it provides an opportunity for new teams and new investors – it's not a time of uncertainty but a time of change. Times of change usually provide an entry point. We believe there is a chance to enter the sport and build a platform that sort of has to reinvent itself. If we were to become part of F1 we could be part of that reinvention."
He added: "For us, what would be important is to provide stability over time. The business opportunities in F1 lie very rarely in making money out of your team; they should lie in making money out of the business platform that you have. Put any seasoned executive into F1 and they turn into a big kid, essentially. It makes them much more approachable. So, for us, F1 is an excellent business-to-business platform."
But do not for a second misinterpret Lopez's comments as suggesting he is only looking at coming into F1 purely to see what he can take out of it financially. He has some fresh ideas that could help the sport move with the times – and was one of the key figures who recently called for a wholesale rethink about how F1 treated new media.
"The sport and its environment are going to be forced to change," he said. "Most of the broadcast contracts are based on a way of looking at things from 15, 20, 25 years ago. The fact is that in three or fours years' time, most people in a lot of countries will be watching it not on TV as we know it today, but over the internet. And that completely redefines how you negotiate contracts and how you distribute content.
"You can't control the internet audience in the same way as you can control the television audience. It's a similar process to what the music industry has gone through in terms of digitizing itself. You have to figure out new ways of making money out of it, because at the end of the day that's what keeps the sport alive."