THE MOLE

How to marry a billionaire?

Penelope (Roedean)'s idea of a great weekend is to lie on a big floppy couch, wearing pyjamas, and eat hamburgers followed by a lot of chocolate. Drinking a considerable amount of red wine obviously helps and, once one has finished all the sex surveys in Cosmo and Marie Claire, there is nothing better than a few hours perusing Guns & Ammo and then Forbes Magazine's list of dollar billionaires. Penelope likes to makes sure she knows as much as possible about the world's richest men.

"Just in case I bump into one of them in Sainsbury's," she explained to The Mole one quiet afternoon. "You never know when you might need to impress one. Do you know that there are about five hundred billionaires in the world?"

"Well," said The Mole wearily, "a billion is not worth what it used to be. Have you been shopping in Hermes recently?"

"The trouble is," Penelope went on, ignoring the question, "some of them are women. Most of them are very old and almost all of the young ones have been snapped up by beauty queens. And then there are the names. I mean, who wants to be called Mrs Jeffrey Skoll? And a girl cannot get married to a chap called Stefan Schorghuber, even if he is worth a couple of billion in real estate. And I absolutely refuse to marry that man from Turkey called Ferit something. The bridesmaids would get the giggles in church!"

"How about Ernesto Bertarelli?" suggested The Mole. "He's thirtysomething and worth about $4.7bn."

"...and married to a beauty queen." said Penelope.

"Oh," said The Mole.

"I quite like the look of the Brothers Ziff," said Penelope. "Daniel, Dirk and Robert. Thirty-one, 35 and 38 and each worth $1.2bn. But my favourite is Albert von Thurn und Taxis. Nineteen and worth $1.5bn!"

"Daft name," said The Mole.

"Albert Maria Lamoral Miguel Johannes Gabriel, the 12th Prince von Thurn und Taxis," Penelope said dreamily. "You address him as Your Serene Highness. His birthday is June 24..."

"And he'll be leaving school soon," interjected The Mole.

"Get them young and train them." said Penelope.

"Dream on," replied The Mole. "I expect there's a pretty princess out there for him somewhere. He's probably not looking for a Home Counties girl in her late twenties who is fixated by small arms."

"In that case," said Penelope, frowning slightly at the description. "It will have to be one of the Russians. All the best Russian billionaires are under 40."

"Like who?" said The Mole.

"Mikhail Khodorkovsky."

"Currently in jail," said The Mole.

"Roman Abramovich."

"Married," said The Mole.

"Mikhail Fridman."

"Wife and two kids."

"Mikhail Prokhorov?"

"Possible," said The Mole thoughtfully. "He is a bachelor but I hear that he is given to wild partying."

"I am a nice girl," said Penelope.

The Mole looked the other way.

"Oleg Deripaska?" said Penelope.

"Facing a billion dollar fraud and racketeering claim," said The Mole.

"Alexei Mordashov?"

"Oh dear," said The Mole. "His wife is taking him to the cleaners at the moment. Apparently when he was making millions very day she was living in a small, three-room apartment and driving a Daewoo Nexia."

"Urrgh!" said Penelope, recoiling visually.

"Never mind," said The Mole, you never know you might get to know Abramovich if he takes over the Jordan team."

"Some chance," she said. "I've been looking for Dietrich Mateschitz of Red Bull for months and he never seems to be around the F1 scene."

"Oh, he's there," said The Mole. "He's just very good at not being noticed. And Stefan Quandt of BMW too."

Penelope looked a little more hopeful.

"Do you think this Abramovich deal is going to happen?"

"Well, Jordan has always had the luck of the devil," smiled The Mole. "I don't think we need to take reports about $270m very seriously but I think that this time EJ might sell. Eddie knows a bit about horses. He owns a few. And he is not the kind of man to look a gift horse in the mouth. He might even be able to stay on as chief executive on a big fat salary. The last thing Abramovich needs is to have to try to run a racing team. Who is he going to ask for advice?"

"Bernie." shrugged Penelope.

"Exactly," said The Mole, "and Bernie likes Eddie Jordan. He doesn't make waves and does what he is told."

"So I guess that explains the rumours about Jacques Villeneuve going to Jordan," said Penelope. "They want a star and he's available. And it makes sense for him because with all that money the team will get better and it is not a dead-end drive."

"If Jordan concentrates on the job," said The Mole. "Unless, of course, the whole thing is designed to panic Verstappen and his sponsor to sign up in a hurry."

He paused for a moment to think.

"Anyway, Abramovich does not seem to be such a bad sort. The Russian government says that he has not done anything wrong and he seems to be in league with President Vladimir Putin so that means that a Russian GP would only be a matter of time. Everyone would benefit from that.

"Abramovich has got money coming out of his ears," The Mole went on, staring out across the Thames to Pimlico. "He's spent something like $300m on putting Chelsea in order but $300m is not going to last him long in F1 if he wants to turn Jordan into a winning team. There will have to be a new factory, a new windtunnel, new people. Everything. He might save a big chunk of money by getting his oil company to sponsor the team. The last I heard he was in the process of wheeling and dealing to build the world's fourth biggest oil company by merging Yukos and Sibneft. That company will want to go global as soon as it has consolidated everything in Russia and Yukos-Sibneft doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, does it? I suspect that if they manage to get the deal together, they will change the name to something else and that will create a huge promotional job for Formula 1 to do."

"Sounds like everyone will make some money from the deal," said Penelope.

"I guess so," said The Mole. "Jordan will be laughing all the way to the bank. His Irish investors will have made an absolute killing. Bernie will be selling him an F1 race. Paddy McNally will be selling him signage. The other teams will be selling the Russian market to their sponsors."

"It will be quids in for everyone." said Penelope.

There was a long pause.

"Maybe for you too, my dear," said The Mole, in an avuncular fashion.

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