In this business, we all make mistakes. Sometimes it's about getting a detail wrong, misinterpreting a tip, or it could be just a prank.
Anyone can fall for it in a time when mere minutes can make the difference between a hot story or a stale one. No one is immune, and it seems not even one of the oldest publications in the business.
A few hours ago AutoCar UK reported that “Audi has bought the entire McLaren Group”, and that it would be a means to gain “it's own team in Formula 1”. Normally an AutoCar report is unassailable because of the credibility of the brand and the contacts built over decades, and it's no surprise that other automotive media outlets pounced on the news to re-report the supposed sale.
But it seems someone was a bit too eager and didn't verify.
Not long after, the McLaren Group issued an official statement that they were aware of the report, going so far as to say that it is “wholly inaccurate” and will have it taken down. Actually they already did as the UK publication has already revised the original article and URL to reflect “McLaren denies being bought by Audi” instead of the original.
It seems that McLaren has already made one or more (probably furious) calls to AutoCar over the matter. And many of the other publications that cited the report also subsequently took down their own articles. If there was any finality or even truth to the acquisition, a company such as McLaren would have likely mentioned something along the lines of standby for an official announcement.
The company said there are no changes to the ownership structure of the group, but alluded to the industry practice of companies in the automotive sector holding discussions and working together. That view was also shared by an Audi spokesperson when asked by Reuters for comment on the report. As to what a collaboration would be between McLaren and Audi, we don't yet know, but that will definitely be worth looking forward to.
This is actually why we have always had a rule in our company: any information we get from an insider has to be verifiable through someone else. It's a difficult rule to stick to at a time where seconds -not days or hours- matter, but it's better than publishing something that will be flat out dened and tagged as wholly inaccurate. They may as well have said fake news.
Below is the full announcement from McLaren:
McLAREN GROUP STATEMENT
Update regarding news media report
McLaren Group is aware of a news media report stating it has been sold to Audi. This is wholly inaccurate and McLaren is seeking to have the story removed.
McLaren’s technology strategy has always involved ongoing discussions and collaboration with relevant partners and suppliers, including other carmakers, however, there has been no change in the ownership structure of the McLaren Group.