Lewis Hamilton says obsessive Formula One fans are forcing him to move to Switzerland because they all want a piece of him – but now the extraordinary young British driver seems to be on the verge of selling them exactly that.
The 22-year-old is apparently considering floating himself on the stockmarket, giving those same fans the chance to buy shares in his life – or at least his future earnings, which could be vast.
The first black star in Formula One, his impact on the sport in his debut season has been compared to that of Tiger Woods in golf. A new set of deals look set to make Hamilton an unprecedented $1bn over the course of his career. And last night he revealed that fleeing the taxman is another reason for going to live abroad.
His father, Anthony, and specialist advisers are considering a range of business moves. In one remarkable plan, a new company would be set up with the driver as both its major asset and shareholder – and sell off 10 per cent of its stock on the London stock exchange for about $100m.
That would give him a lump sum now – before he has a chance to crash his car at high speed, lose his nerve or go off the rails as a result of the luxurious new life he can enjoy as a superstar.
When the move to Switzerland was revealed, Hamilton blamed fans and photographers for invading his privacy. But, asked by the chatshow host Michael Parkinson whether he had been advised to leave the country for tax reasons, he said: "Also, that definitely adds to it." Tax experts have predicted he could save £20m a year.
But Hamilton insisted he had also been shaken by the experience of fans following him home. "I have come from nowhere and been leapfrogged into being this superstar, and it's a really, really weird experience."
Anthony Hamilton took redundancy from British Rail to back his young son's talent and take him to go-kart races. The teenager made history when he was signed very early by McLaren, the racing company for which he is now the number one driver.
The share deal would also be a first. David Bowie did something similar in 1997 when he raised £33m by selling bonds against his future earnings, a tactic taken up James Brown, the Isley Brothers and several film studios. But the bonds were based on the future royalties from 25 albums Bowie had already recorded – not races he had yet to win.
But if he does put himself on the stock exchange, Lewis Hamilton will be – as he is so often – in pole position.Reuse content