McLaren is giving rich enthusiasts and affluent investors a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to own one of its most valuable tangible assets: its headquarters. Before you launch a GoFundMe campaign, keep in mind the next owner will be obligated to lease the property back to the carmaker for an undermined amount of time.
Hit hard by the on-going coronavirus pandemic, McLaren commissioned Canadian real estate firm Colliers to sell its headquarters for £200 million, a sum that represents approximately $256 million at the current conversion rate. It’s interesting to note the facility is worth about 13 times as much as a 1994 F1 LM-Specification. Located in Woking, which is about an hour from London, the property includes the McLaren Technology Center, the McLaren Production Center (where road cars are manufactured), and the McLaren Thought Leadership Center. There is also a small man-made lake, parking lots, several picturesque acres of grass, and thousands of trees.
McLaren isn’t moving. It will remain in Woking, but it will lease its headquarters from the person or company that purchases it. Details about the transaction, like how long the firm will lease the property for and how much it will spend per month, haven’t been made public, unsurprisingly. However, it’s reasonable to assume there will be a clause stipulating the next owner can’t kick McLaren out to plant alfalfa or to open a Texas-style ranch.
Executives are analyzing other ways to make money, reduce expenses, or both in the coming months. McLaren cut 1,200 jobs in May 2020, and it announced it sold only 307 cars between February and May, down from 953 the previous year. It secured a $185 million boost from the oil-rich National Bank of Bahrain, yet unverified rumors claim it’s considering selling a relatively small stake in its Formula One team in order to free additional cash.
Sale-and-leaseback deals aren’t what we’d call common in the automotive industry, but McLaren’s move isn’t unprecedented. In 2012, PSA Peugeot-Citroen sold its historic headquarters on Avenue de la Grande Armée in the heart of Paris for about $327 million to raise cash; it still leases the building in 2020. And, in January 2004, troubled British carmaker MG Rover sold most of its Longbridge, England, site to a property developer with plans to rent it. It signed a 35-year contract, and optimistically added a renewal clause, but it shut down in April 2005.