Yachts, supercars and private jets

Renato CappucciMy friend has been invited by his boss, who is a Monaco resident, to stay at his Monte Carlo flat.

But before you think “how nice”, you need to know the full story.

Prince Albert Grimaldi will happily let you take residence there and enjoy its friendly tax regime if you can demonstrate that you spend time there. If your utility bills are not consistent with a normal dwelling in the principality you lose your entitlement to be resident there and go back to paying the taxes like the rest of the hoi-polloi.

This explains people’s desire to spend long weekends and – while they are at it – keep the light switched on and open the taps in order to keep the water running.

Monaco may look like a glamorous place but if you take out the Formula 1, the tennis and a handful of other events there is not much happening.

Outside this period life is not very exciting and reaches its nadir during winter months when it becomes full of rich pensioners. The chance is that you’d have a better night out in Blackburn.

Add the four hours drive, the extortionate prices and the pain of parking any vehicle and you can understand why my friend is not so keen to do a favour to his tax dodging boss.

And while Monaco sounds incredibly attractive to most people, the truth is that this perception does not correspond to reality.

Take the lavish yachts leisurely moored at the Monaco harbour during the F1 week. Firstly, if the size is decent you need a crew to run it which is an invasion of privacy.

Also, yachts have their limitations. If the wind is too strong you are stranded. The alternative is to choose a sailboat but, again, you will have to rely on some crew unless you are experienced sailor. Bernie Ecclestone, for example, can afford a collection of classic and exotic cars to fill a hangar at Biggin Hill airport, yet has to employ a person to keep them in good order because he’s too busy running Formula 1.

And all the people I met that were rich enough to owns a few supercars found it difficult to drive all of them at the same time and ended up paying someone to do the maintenance. Sounds like waste, does not it?

Besides, supercars can be intolerably unpractical.

When Team Minardi had the Lamborghini engine we were given a Diablo to attend a PR function. With some hindsight, I let my colleague drive and he used all his repertoire of swearing when negotiating downtown Bologna’s narrow roads at bumper to bumper speed.

Believe me, the admired looks of the bystanders were not worthy the two hour drive in the congested traffic in a car designed to do 180 mph, the poor visibility and the terror of making a dent in a car whose bodywork is not cheap to repair. So you could say ‘forget road transport’ and travel by air.

If you are super rich, a private jet seems an extremely practical way of going to places without having all the punishment of using an air terminal in these security anxious times, but it has its downsides too.

Take fuel consumption. If you think your Range Rover is thirsty you should try to fill a Falcon or a Gulfstream.

You would think that if you are rich enough to afford a private airplane then you are not really bothered about the cost of filling it but this is not necessarily true.

The late Ayrton Senna was the best paid driver in one of the wealthiest business in the world. He could pilot his own jet which used to move between Grand Prix venues throughout the racing season. Yet in his contract he made sure that Shell of Elf or whoever supplied his team paid the fuel for his flying toy.

The third element to take into account is usage. Jetting off occasionally to take your offspring to Paris Disneyland for a day trip or your partner for a shopping spree in Rome with the bonus of being back in time to catch up with your mates for last orders at the local pub it is not an option.

You have to use it. Leave it parked a touch too much and your accountant will tell you to consider to charter it to less fortunate people, rich enough to afford a privately chartered jet, but not enough to own one.

This is because wealth is all about whom you compare to yourself. As Lucio Seneca wrote 2000 years ago to his friend Lucilio, if you are not enslaved and you are able to get food and shelter then you can call yourself fortunate and live happily. Beyond this level he reckoned “they are not poor those who have little possessions but those who ache for more”.

Renato Cappucci, TAR-OX.