John Maxwell, the 54-year-old director-general of the AA, was made an "honorary member" of the RAC club in Pall Mall by virtue of his job. According to the RAC, this position would entitle him to the cash hand- out.
The AA denies this is the case, stating: "Mr Maxwell is categorically not a full member. He was offered an honorary title as part of his job. He will not be voting for anything."
A "club clique" which includes Damon Hill, the former Formula One world champion, and the actor Richard Wilson, have to vote to end the RAC's mutual status. Should these group approve the proposed pounds 450m sale of the RAC's motoring organisation, each member of the exclusive west London clubhouse will receive a pounds 35,000 windfall.
Mr Maxwell's household is also likely to benefit from any sell-off. His sons - John Jr, James and Iain - are all fans of the country house in Surrey and the Pall Mall's sumptuous restaurant and restaurant. Two of them are full members - which will bring in pounds 70,000 when the RAC is sold - and the other has applied.
The spat over Mr Maxwell's membership will worsen relations between the RAC and the AA. Under its new parent, Cendant - which also owns Green Flag - the new RAC will serve 9 million motorists. This will put it on a par with the AA.
The AA yesterday took out full-page advertisements in national newspapers designed to attract disaffected users of the RAC's breakdown service - who have been angered by the large returns by a group of well-heeled top people.
Ordinary members of the RAC will not get a payout because its 101-year-old constitution cites that only those "full members" that join the Pall Mall club direct - for pounds 600 a year - are shareholders of the motoring organisation.
The RAC responded in kind today with an advertisement that questions the efficiency of the AA.
"We are concerned about the quality of the service which members receive. That is what we are concerned about," said Edmund King, a spokesman for the RAC board.Reuse content