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A Life Less Ordinary – Chloe Targett-Adams

After starting her legal career training as a solicitor at a law firm in London, Chloe Targett-Adams first joined Formula 1 as in-house counsel in 2009. She became global director of promoter and business relations in April 2017, just four months after the takeover by Liberty Media, and is now playing an instrumental role in shaping the future of the sport. She leads race promotion operations for the organisation and is the key contact point for all Formula 1 event promoters, currently spanning 21 host nations and comprising governments and large private companies.

Chloe Targett-Adams at the Monaco Grand Prix

Chloe Targett-Adams watching on at the Monaco Grand Prix.

You started your career as a lawyer – how did that come about?

I actually wanted to work in the music industry! I come from a very creative family – my father [Phil Manzanera] is the lead guitarist for Roxy Music – and had a passion for live entertainment. I remember having a conversation with my dad in my early teens: he encouraged me to ‘be a lawyer or an accountant’ because that’s best way to get to the top of a record label. Ultimately, it was the executives that ran the music business and that’s where I wanted to be.

What law firms did you work for?

After I qualified, I spent two years with SJ Berwin, which was heavily focused on corporate finance, but also had a media and film practice. That felt like the perfect combination for me – intellectually challenging and involving the media entertainment product that I love. I learned so much – most importantly, how to get a deal done. You cannot get a deal over the line without everyone pulling their weight, and if you don’t have the right team around you to do that, a hard and intense environment can become toxic. I then moved on to a firm specialising in media and entertainment called Harbottle & Lewis in the West End. I worked mainly with TV and film production companies on investment opportunities around the EIS schemes.

What inspired your move into motorsport?

My very wise partner told me I was too commercial to be a private practice lawyer – and that resonated with me. I was looking to move to film production companies and major movie studios when the job as in-house corporate counsel at Formula 1 came up.

You started at Formula 1 in 2009 during the Ecclestone era. What was that like?

It was a great opportunity for me to be able to work so closely with someone who has created an incredible legacy. I was given responsibility and learned a lot – that is something I will always be incredibly grateful for. A lot of our race promoters had long-standing relationships with Mr Ecclestone far beyond the years that I’ve been here, so steadying the ship was a huge part of our work last year. Working for Formula 1 is completely different now and it’s like I have a new job in a new business.

At Formula 1 it has never been about what gender you are or where you’re from. It’s about what you can deliver

On completion of the takeover in January 2017, Liberty Media were quick to announce changes to rules, engine regulations and the race calendar. Were these changes overdue?

I think to a certain extent we had been standing still for a couple years. We had brought new races to the calendar but in terms of engaging with our fans – to quote our new bosses – it was a suboptimal. When Chase Carey, Sean Bratches and Ross Brawn came in, their vision was to unleash the greatest racing spectacle on the planet, and the fans are obviously foremost in what we do and why we do it. I thought it was a really exciting direction for the business to be going in.

Do you think women are fairly represented in Formula 1?

Law firms can be very male-dominated so you immediately notice when you go somewhere else that’s more balanced. Formula 1 is a very male-centred sport on many levels but there is actually a core of incredible females across our business functions and across all of the teams. Something I feel really strongly about – and I always have – is equality and fair opportunity. At Formula 1 it has never been about what gender you are or where you’re from. It’s what you can deliver because we’re focused on pushing the boundaries in every area of the business.

What can you tell us about your leadership style and values?

I expect people to have the drive and the will to succeed and it’s about how we support them to reach their goals and achieve their ambitions. I’m conscious of how I need to grow and develop myself to be able to grow and develop my team and their skills. We create an environment that is culturally open and stretches people – I think that’s very important.

You’re said to be the driving force behind bringing new destinations to the Formula 1 race calendar…

There is definitely a vested interest in how we create a truly global calendar. I would say we’re pretty much there and that’s because of the incredible legacy that we’ve got to build on. Our goal is to increase our calendar and add more races and, yes, my team is at the forefront of making that happen. We’re looking at our races very strategically, and in a way that the business hasn’t at times in the past. Formula 1 is a major global sport and entertainment series and we have such a great opportunity now to drive it forward.

Which key territories are you currently focusing on?

There are two key strategic markets that we’re currently focusing on – China and the USA – but we’re also looking out for locations that bring a unique experience. For example, Africa is the world’s second largest continent and that’s a territory we’re not currently in.

2018 Austrian Formula One Grand Prix

Max Verstappen of Red Bull Racing during the qualification at the Austrian Formula One Grand Prix.

The future of the British Grand Prix has been uncertain since Silverstone’s owner activated a break clause to stop hosting the race after 2019. Are you confident it will remain part of the Formula 1 calendar?

The British Grand Prix is something that we actively want to retain and we’ve been quite vocal about that. It was Silverstone’s choice to exercise the break clause – it was not something that we were pursuing. We have had really positive and constructive negotiations with them over the past year. We would be happy for the Grand Prix to continue at Silverstone, but equally we’re evaluating other options and it’s really about how that plays out.

Formula 1 recently announced a decision to hit the brakes on the proposed 2019 street race in Miami, shelving plans until at least 2020. Can you explain why?

We started the process with the city of Miami and our prospective promoter about a year ago. We always knew it was going to be a very complex and challenging negotiation process to get a street race underway, as it is in any market. We’ve had strong support from the city of Miami, Miami Dade County, Port of Miami and the key stakeholders but there comes a point when you are at risk of staging a suboptimal race because of tight deadlines. The commercial revenue opportunity also has to make sen se for us, the stakeholders in the city and our prospective promoter. That’s part of the ongoing discussion and in my mind everything is moving in the right direction.

Claire Bloomfield is a journalist specialising in sport. She writes for The Guardian, Reuters, AFP and BT Sport.