How I am going to make YOU a multi-millionaire

I have just worked out how to make a million dollars. And I can make you twice that every year if you follow my advice...

Have you ever read an advertisement like that? So have I. But I really do have the answer - and this is it.

You become President of the FIA.

I know Max Mosley does the job without being paid - it must be nice to be rich - but he does seem to have been a little careless - even for a member of the landed gentry. The Financial Times in London says that in 1995 he had concluded a deal for the FIA to receive a total of about $50m for five years from the sale of F1's TV rights.

Now to us normal people this would have seemed like a good deal, but the FT says that he had every right to demand a settlement worth $330m for the same period and so he gave away $280m

Max's justification for the deal was, of course, impressive. One would expect nothing less. When Max's silver tongue is flowing at speed it is hard to believe anyone else. He had done it, he said, because he was hoping that Bernie Ecclestone would give the FIA a 10% share in Formula One Holdings (FOH) when it was floated on the London Stock Exchange. Nice idea, but why not take the $330m and demand a shareholding of 10% as well? After all the FIA does actually OWN the TV rights that Ecclestone is merely exploiting them.

You can argue that the FIA does not need to make money. In fact, until it moves to Switzerland, it needs to NOT make money because it is supposed to be a non-profit organization and if it makes too much the French government will come along and tax the profits.

But, I am sorry, if you want to run a non-profit organization it really is very simple. You call my wife. She can wipe out any profit margin...

"Where am I supposed to get the money to pay for a horse?" I say in exasperation.

"That's your problem comes the reply. I didn't marry you to be your financial advisor."

Oh, you might say, she cannot spend THAT much money on an international federation.

Why not? I could.

Surely the FIA could have used the money Max signed away. Would it not be nice of the FIA was a useful organization with a vast library - with balding wise librarians, oak desks, nice ladders and a big dome - and every automotive book every written? Should not the automotive world have a film archive or a proper car collection? Does the FIA even have a decent database with all the results of all the major races that have ever happened? No, but I am told there are some cardboard boxes in the basement in Paris full of damp bits of paper. It doesn't even has an Annual of its own telling the world about what happened in the automobile world that year.

If the FIA thought about it, it could host a proper prize-giving ceremony every year with a big televised party for all the automotive hotshots at the Paris Opera or wherever, rather than the insignificant event that occurs today. Bernie could even sell the TV rights for that!

The FIA could own racing circuits or Jumbo Jets to fly teams around the world. At the moment there is only one small jet which Mosley leases to fly him from place to place.

No. Everything these days is left to private enterprise. And I do not understand why because the FIA could have money to burn. Earning money is usually the difficult bit.

Spending it is easy. But there are limits. I was working out the other day that even without the Eurobond and the flotation Mr. E could probably go shopping and spend $1m every week for the next 10 years without being short of a tip for the bellboy. And that is if he keeps the money in the garage at home. If he puts it in the bank and lives off the interest he could still buy a Cruise Missile every 10 days forever and still have a lump sum of $500m to fall back on when times get hard.

I have nothing against Bernie Ecclestone making money. He has built the sport of Formula 1 into what it is today and he is being rewarded for it.

But one hopes that in the future the FIA will make some serious money for itself to use in sensible causes. Buying forests in Mexico is all very well but there are many other useful things the FIA could do rather than keeping the blazer industry going.

Max Mosley says that he does not want to be re-elected FIA President in the year 2001. I do not believe him. I am sure that he will want to stay on until 2005. If he takes up gardening in 2001 I reckon he would soon get bored and would be ripping the heads off roses after about two weeks. By 2001 the FIA General Assembly will have forgotten this curious deal. How can you argue against $10m a year and 10% of the floated FOH? The dividends from FOH shares will be paying out big money if the profit-ratio of the company stays at its current level and although the sport is already awash with money there are many areas of the business which have not even begun to be exploited properly. The potential for more income is astonishing. The other day when Bernie was trying to convince banks to buy his F1 Eurobonds he showed that the bond could still pay what is promised even if a quarter of the TV companies default on their deals and there are only 13 races a year.

In 2010 the rights to exploit F1 commercially can be returned to the FIA - and they should be. The governing body should take the whole business in-house and rather than paying out to financial institutions should put the money back into the business. That would probably involve buying back the FOH shares but that would not be a problem when the FIA could look forward to income of a billion dollars a year.

Bernie - and all who invest in him - will have had plenty by then. The F1 teams will be changing hands for $200m each and will all be owned by building societies and investment banks. They will be making profits of $25m a year and paying good team managers $1m a year to run them. They will all have made around $200m by then just from the TV rights. The FIA will have made $100m and - maybe - twice that from the dividends. It could be making $500m EVERY year.

Oops, I've dropped my crystal ball in excitement.

The danger - and this is where you might lose your millions - is that FOH will be so big that it will make a bid to buy the FIA for a single cash payment to each of the member clubs while Mosley is still in charge. Nothing is impossible. The financial men are doing that now at Silverstone. If a federation is a business - as the European Commission seems to think it is - there is no reason that it cannot be bought and sold. The statutes certainly allow for the federation to dissolve itself and one must assume that the promotional rights to FIA championships could be sold to a private company. Each of the member clubs could take the money and run. Such lofty ideas as sporting federations cannot survive the waving of a big wodge of dosh. The national clubs could then demutualize and split the proceeds between the members - just as the Royal Automobile Club has recently done with its road service business.

So my advice is to join your national automobile club as quickly as possible - just in case.

Some quick arithmetic reveals that if the FIA went for $5bn and there were 150 members clubs, each one would get $33m and that could be divided up among the members to provide a nice slice of income.

If you want to stop the above from happening you have to put your blazer on and spend every night for the next two years in the bar at your national automobile club, listening to lonely souls - and then you will suddenly find that someone has recommended that you become chairman of the wine committee.

Another three years in the bar - spending the time reading up about the member clubs of the FIA (more of that later) - and you can lead a coup d'etat to take over the club. You are a member of the FIA General Assembly.

You now have just two years in which to get your act together. You must first convince your automobile club to send you on 20-30 goodwill visits a year to motor clubs in countries which do not have FIA membership. You help them organize the odd autotest (with tanks and so on) in supermarket car parks. And then you must smile benignly as you give out the prizes. In about July 2005 you must suddenly suggest to all your friends around the world that it is time to apply for FIA membership and explain that your connections will be very helpful. By October someone will have suggested that it would be a good idea for you to stand for the presidency.

You will utter: "My goodness. I had not thought of that. I want only to have a restful and quiet life but if called upon to do so by my peers I will face the struggle ahead of me as best I can."

With the support of the 40 new members clubs you have encouraged you will be well on your way to success. A quick world tour, suggesting in each country that it is such a shame that such a nice country like - fill in the blank space in the speech depending on where you are - does not have a Grand Prix you will be able to add another 25 votes.

There are 30-odd seats on the FIA Committee - the two World Councils combined - and you can promise these to the Vice-Presidents in 30 clubs around the world if they can oust the top man in time for the FIA presidential election.

Suddenly you will have 95 votes and will be the favorite to win. Even allowing for treachery - and there will be plenty - you should sweep to victory.

Your first step must be to point out that FIA Presidents are, in fact, running a big corporation and the modern chief executive is well-rewarded. You vote yourself a big salary, share options and bonuses... And bingo you have your $2m a year.

How do I get my money?

When you have done all that, you call me up and I'll help you to spend the money - for a small annual salary.

A million dollars a year would be about right to pay for a string of nice horses...

Print Feature