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Bernie's Christmas Letter

Merry Christmas. Hullo.

I started doing these Christmas Letters last year and everyone liked it so much - or at least they said they did - that I thought I might do the same again. I don't believe in Christmas. It gets in the way of business, but I guess the kiddies - actually they are quite big girls now - like all that sort of stuff.

Anyway, as many of you will know I have had a year of contrasts. I went from being very rich and became VERY VERY rich. It was rather nice. But then I had some heart problems as well so I figured that the best thing to do would be to nip into the hospital and get it fixed. The best thing about it was that I was able to prove to all those doubters out there that I do actually have a heart. Professor Watkins found me a nice place to go up the East End and I spent a few days having what they called a "routine" operation. They fixed the old heart. I didn't even to buy a secondhand one...

This caused the paperwork to build up a bit but I was soon back at the desk. Business has been good. In addition to making loads of money I also became a publisher and launched a magazine called Eurobusiness - you may have seen the advertising dotted around the race tracks. I can't say I know very much about publishing but this bloke Tom Rubython seems to know what he's doing, although he sometimes comes up with some strange things. One of the issues I read said that the European Union's Competition Commissioner Karel Van Miert was "Europe's Most Powerful Man". I had to tell Max that and he was very upset because he thought that was his job.

Rubython was wrong on that one. Van Miert did not last very long at all and I cannot say I was sad to see him go. I was always told never to trust a bloke with a girl's name... although I do hate to see politicians in pain. Poor old Van Miert was not at all happy when his whole mob was thrown out in disgrace.

I have just been reading the latest Eurobusiness and I was amazed to discover that I am now the richest British person in the whole world. I shall have to have a word with that Rubython. People will think I have some influence over him. Anyway it says that I have a fortune worth 2.4bn. The poor old Queen has only got 2.0bn.

I must say that I did have a couple of windfall deals this year. Despite all those problems with Van Miert I managed to convince this German bank to lend me 800m. It took them quite a long time to make up their minds - but you know what these Suits are like. And then in November I met some more nice bankers and they said they will give me another 800m for 50% of the company. I am still in charge and I've got another 50% to sell so I guess that making 1.6bn in a year is not a bad deal when nothing has really changed that much.

Actually I don't own a single share these days. It all belongs to the wife and the kids. I work for them.

It has been a nice quiet year for Formula 1 - off the tracks anyway. It was very nice not having to fight all those team owners. Even that Craig Pollock shut up after a while. I think he had a few things on his mind when the cars started running - or not as the case may be. Anyway after the Spring he stopped trying to prove that he was more important than everyone else and since then it's been all quiet.

The other day I was reading the paper and I saw that NASCAR has just signed a big deal TV deal in the United States. They got 1.5bn for six years. We are doing a bit less than that on a yearly basis - but the rates are going up all the time so I am sure that we will be much better off six years from now. Funnily enough, I noticed that the NASCAR teams are only going to get about 390m between them over the six years - and there are about 40 of them - so I guess the 11 F1 teams getting about 100m a year between them EVERY year is a pretty good deal. I don't want to hear any whingeing...

I was going to give them all the chance to blow some hot air in the summer and I invited everyone for a weekend at the Manoir des Quatres Saisons hotel near Oxford - costs a bloody fortune that place - anyway we were going to have a bit of brainstorm at my expense (I even invited that Pollock) so we could talk about the future of F1 but they were all too busy to turn up.

Because of all the heart business, I didn't go to as many races as usual this year although I did nip off for a quick visit to Egypt and Dubai when the girls were on half term. The governments seemed very interested in giving me a load of money to put on F1 races so they were very helpful. I do like a nice friendly government. Travelling is not so bad when you have a private jet (or three) but I must say that I do like having my own private airport as well. Your staff don't get any hassle with the bags when they have to pick them up.

Actually I've now got two airports: Biggin Hill - which I bought in 1996 - and the one down at Paul Ricard. I also bought the racing circuit down there - it was a bargain at 6.5m - and we have big plans. I cannot tell you about them at the moment. All I will say is that one day it will be an amazing place and I will probably put my car collection there so that punters can come and have a look - for a small financial consideration of course. Most of the cars are secondhand but it seems a shame to leave them in warehouses. We might even have a Grand Prix at Paul Ricard again one day - if I can get the French to stop messing about with all their silly laws.

Everyone thought I was going to buy Brands Hatch as well. I guess that's logical. It's in my part of the world and I grew up near there. In the end some other blokes bought it but I expect we'll be taking the British Grand Prix there at some point or other. All the old boys up at Silverstone seem to be rather upset that I want to move the Grand Prix...

We didn't much else in the way of shopping this year, except that I bought a boat done in Greece. It's a motor cruiser which is 165ft long and has a permanent crew of 20. It'll be nice for knocking around the Mediterranean in the summer. Most of the F1 team bosses have got boats these days but I wanted to make sure that they know their place in life. These multimillionaires do get ideas above their station sometimes. The bad thing about having a big boat is that all these harbour masters take liberties because you're rich and try to charge you outrageous mooring fees. I think I'll have to buy a Greek island and park the boat there. It'll be cheaper in the long-term.

Of course, I'd need an island with an airport...

What with all these extra expenses I've been looking at ways of increasing the revenue a bit - shareholders like that sort of thing - and so I may have to buy that Paddy McNally's company Allsport and charge all the VIPs a load more money for eating their lunch at the races. I've also been having a look at merchandising and I think there might be a few quid in that... We are still planning to make a movie about Formula 1 - if that Sylvester Stallone could make up his mind who should direct it. That would be very helpful as we go charging into the American market next year.

I was looking at the United States the other day and I was rather humbled when I saw that Bill Gates of Microsoft is worth $18bn or whatever it is. Now I am the richest man in Britain I suppose I have to aim for him. I am glad to see he's run into trouble with the competition authorities - now he knows how I feel.

Apart from the usual social events, I had a very nice dinner with that King Juan Carlos of Spain but unfortunately I had to miss Dr. Mahathir's party in Malaysia.

Being rich and famous can be a bit of a bore sometimes. People want my autograph nowadays. I have to keep my eyes open for robbers. I have this man who is always following me around and I tell people he must be a robber - because he looks like a right cut-throat - but actually he's there to look after me. A sort of minder. You cannot be too careful these days...

I expect he will be quite useful next time I go into the F1 paddock and that Craig Pollock wants to speak to me.

Anyway, that'll be next year. Merry Christmas - if you have to celebrate it.

Bernard

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