It was the talk of last week’s 2022 EICMA Show: MV Agusta, Italy’s most prestigious and historic manufacturer, winner to date of 270 Grand Prix races, 38 World Riders’ Championships, and 37 World Constructors’ Championships, had supposedly been acquired by KTM. Stefan Pierer, the most powerful man in European motorcycling, had captured his most iconic trophy brand yet, to add to his roster of Euro-marques including KTM, Husqvarna and GasGas. Indeed, according to one supposedly authoritative source, he’d be sealing the takeover deal with MV’s current owner, Russian entrepreneur Timur Sardarov, on the Thursday before the Valencia GP, November 3. This would permit him to announce at the final race of the 2022 season that MV Agusta would be returning to MotoGP racing in 2023 – albeit as a KTM subsidiary.
Only one thing was wrong: it wasn’t true. What was announced on November 3 was that MV Agusta and Stefan Pierer’s private holding company, Pierer Mobility, had reached an agreement on future strategic cooperation, as a consequence of which KTM AG would acquire a 25.1% stake in MV Agusta Motor S.p.A. According to the press release announcing this acquisition, “Within the framework of this strategic partnership between the two European motorcycle manufacturers, KTM AG, a company of Pierer Mobility, will provide MV Agusta with supply chain support and take over the purchasing. Furthermore, in the course of this cooperation, MV Agusta will partly distribute its product range via Pierer Mobility’s worldwide distribution network.”
MV Agusta has been entirely Russian-owned since Timur Sardarov, now 40, completed his family’s acquisition of the historic Italian brand in September 2019, with a further injection of cash sufficient to give it 100% ownership of the company. Up to that point he was believed to have invested almost 100 million euro in acquiring full control of MV, most of which had been devoted to recapitalising the company after three decades of its ownership, flipping between the Castiglioni family and various outside interests: Proton, Gevi Bank, Harley-Davidson, and AMGhad all taken turns since the late Claudio Castiglioni acquired MV from the Agusta family in 1991.
Moscow-born Sardarov moved to England in 2003, and with two daughters born there, made London his home until 2019, when as a mark of his commitment to MV Agusta, he moved to Italy. His oligarch father Roman is one of the 500 richest men in Russia, his fortune deriving from the Comstar Energy Group, one of the country’s largest oil and natural gas companies. Timur Sardarov founded a UK-based private jet airline in 2005, but he sold this in 2013 to concentrate on his capital venture business Black Ocean Investment, which he’d established in 2006 in conjunction with British partner Oliver Ripley. In 2016 he met Giovanni Castiglioni, as an MV Agusta owner already, with a Dragster RR amongst his various bikes, which then included three Harleys (a Sportster, a Softail, and a Fat Boy), and a Ducati Diavel. Sardarov and Castiglioni hit it off, so Black Ocean essentially financed the restructuring of MV Agusta after its then-latest bout of serial financial uncertainty. Sardarov assumed a hands-on role at MV’s lakeside Varese factory in June 2017, and since 2019 has been the outright owner of the prestigious manufacturer – which he acquired just in time to have to grapple with the effects of the COVID pandemic. Having survived that with ‘only’ a four-week shutdown at MV Agusta’s Varese plant, the next hurdle he faced was the supply chain crisis which has hit manufacturers in the process of regrouping, in all countries, and of all sizes, on two wheels and four. And then Vladimir Putin decided to invade Ukraine, with consequences we’re still grappling with globally today.