Stephen King explains Justin Wilson's novel Investors Club
by Mark Cipolloni

 August 28, 2006

Go to our forums to discuss this article

Stephen King
Mark Cipolloni/AutoRacing1.com

Champ Car driver Justin Wilson got his real big break in racing when he was offered to drive in Formula One.  However, he was expected to bring money but he didn't have enough so he sold shares in himself to raise the funds in a novel concept.

I caught up with the head of Wilson's Investors Club, Stephen King in Montreal this past weekend to learn more about the club.

MARK CIPOLLONI:  I'm here today in Montréal, Canada, with Stephen King, head of the Justin Wilson's Investors Club, is that correct?

STEPHEN KING: I organize it, yes, that's right. The Investors Club was set up after Justin Wilson plc came into existence. There are about 900 investors in Justin. It was felt that it would be good to have something whereby people have a bit more involvement. The Investors Club is separate to, but supported by the directors of Justin Wilson plc. My role is to coordinate what goes on, to look after the website, and to raise the investors tours for UK investors to come over to watch some of the races in the U.S., Canada, et cetera.

Q. How did this come about? In America here, we don't see too much of that kind of thing.

STEPHEN KING: It was a one-off of its time. Justin had the opportunity in 2003 to go into Formula One. The only way he could do that was to bring money into Minardi. Because it's very difficult to get sponsorship, it was felt that Jonathan Palmer, who is Justin's manager, felt the way to do that was through this novel scheme whereby Justin sold shares in himself to the public. He raised £1.2 million, approximately, most of which was used to fund the driving for Minardi. He impressed quite well in his first season in Formula One to the point that the last five races, he left Minardi and moved into Jaguar. Unfortunately, Jaguar then got into a situation where they required a pay driver, and the entry level for F1 drivers had gone up to such an extent that Justin was priced out.

Justin then moved over here. He looked at his options. Champ Car was obviously an option for him. He moved in with Mi-Jack Conquest for a season. During the course of that, Carl Russo was keeping tabs on Justin's performance, saw that he was good at what he did and would be suitable for RuSPORT in its second year. So Justin went over to RuSPORT in 2005, finished third in the championship points, and here he is this year third place again.

Q. You mentioned there's 900 members in this club.

STEPHEN KING: Yes. When the scheme was set up, it was available to anybody to subscribe. The minimum subscription was £500. Most people put in either 500 or a thousand. Some people put in a lot more than that. The vast majority are private individuals, but there are one or two who have done it on a corporate basis.

Q. Why did these people get involved? What was their incentive?

STEPHEN KING: With very few exceptions, indeed, the motivation wasn't to make money. There was a tax break in that it was under the enterprise investment scheme, which means that you get about 20% of your contribution offset against your tax liability. But most people did it because they wanted to support a British driver. He'd won the F-3000 championship - only British driver to do that. He was having difficulty trying to make it into F1. It gave people involvement. At the weekend when they're watching whether it's Monaco or Nurburgring or something, they can say, you know, I'm involved in this, I'm part of the story of that driver and how come he's racing around that circuit.

Q. Are they mostly racing fans of some sort?

STEPHEN KING: I would say almost all are racing fans. There wouldn't be anybody that came into it expecting to make money, and therefore they're all doing it. It's a decision of the heart rather than the head to invest that money.

Q. Interesting. Do they, as part of this Investors Club, get to be inside the sport more? Do they get access to things?

STEPHEN KING: They get access because the Investors Club is recognized by RuSPORT as being a legitimate organization, if you like, affiliated to Justin. We're able through the kindness of RuSPORT to make places available in hospitality. We book hotel accommodations for our people through the same agent that deals with the team. So we can sort of fast track investors in.

Q. I see.

STEPHEN KING: I think those that have come over, they just appreciate how good Champ Car is compared to Formula One. You can get close to the drivers, to the venue. Everyone is friendly.

Q. Can I ask, has there been any return at all on the investment yet? Any money come back the other way?

STEPHEN KING: The way the scheme was set up in year one the whole point of it was to spend that money on the F1 drive. It was no surprise at the end of the first year there was no money there at all. The way the scheme is set up, the shares have a life of 10 years from the day of issue. What will happen is progressively, as Justin's income accrues, shareholders will get up to £2 for each £1 they put in and thereafter 10% of any surplus. For the first year, -the year ending December 31st, '05, was the year the company first made a surplus. This year it will do the same as well. Hopefully over the next two, three, four years, there will be income accruing to the Justin Wilson plc which can then be shared out to investors.

Q. Very interesting. So this was kind of like a -- this is a novel concept even in Europe?

STEPHEN KING: It's a one-off. Nobody's ever done it before. It was tried a year or so later by a man called Sam Hancock. His scheme didn't get the minimum subscriptions, so he had to abandon it. As I said at the outset, I think it was of its time. You couldn't get an F1 drive for that sort of money. There's no way an individual could raise the funds necessary to fund a drive.

Q. Very interesting. So if for some reason Justin doesn't earn enough money in the 10 years to pay off all the investors?

STEPHEN KING: Such is life. And I think people will say -- even now, there isn't a formal marketplace for the shares. It's not like you go to the Stock Exchange and trade them. There are one or two people who either they decided they want to move out of that and into something else, and there are people who will buy up those residual shares. Again, nobody's doing it to make money. At the end of it, if you paid £500 for a part of that, you go 10 years, you don't get anything back, you can't say you haven't had your money's worth because you've had that person help that driver's career.

Q. When he announced he was going to come to Champ Car, does the Investors Club have -- did they ask for their opinion on it? Any say in where he races?

STEPHEN KING: No. The Investors Club is something that is automatically available at no cost to people who are investors. It's just a way of communicating with them, to enable them to get a bit more involvement. But they don't have any authority over what Justin does. Justin obviously is very mindful of his investors and he's interested in what they have to say, and he appreciates the fact that investors are behind him. And he would not be in this position had he not had that investment, so he's very committed to the Investors Club and the individuals as well.

Each year we have an annual general meeting, a formal meeting, which is at Brands Hatch, which is a venue -- one of the venues Jonathan owns. Justin comes along and once the formal business of the meeting is over, there's socializing. We can all take our own private cars around the track. It's all good fun.

Q. Are all the investors British?

STEPHEN KING: The vast majority are because Justin is British, and therefore it was British investors. But there are a couple this side of the Atlantic, there's some in Australia, there's one in New Zealand. So it is international, but the vast majority are UK based.

Q. There's some rumors about a possible race or two in Europe next year with Champ Car. Give the investors something to come out for that?

STEPHEN KING: There have always been rumors. The Investors Club, of course, would love it because it would be a home race and it's quite a trek to come across the Atlantic as many times a season as I've been doing. But I think the realities are the series has to make it viable and you probably need to have back-to-back races to do that. Whether it's going to happen or not, I don't know. But, yes, it would definitely be nice from an investor's point of view.

Q. Very interesting. I appreciate the time you've taken for our readers to tell us what this is all about, how it all came about. I hope you eventually make return on your own investment. If not, hopefully you enjoy the opportunity, the experience.

STEPHEN KING: We hope we do. If anyone wants to look at www.JWIC.co.uk, the Investor Club's website. There is a shareholders area that you do need membership access for. But a lot of it is available to the general public to have a look at. Of course, there's Justin's own website, too.

Q. Very good. Thank you very much.

STEPHEN KING: You're welcome.

The author can be contacted at markc@autoracing1.com

Go to our forums to discuss this article


Other Editorials

Champ Car's Minardi 2-seater is the ultimate ride

For Alex Figge and PCM it's baptism by fire

A tribute to Alfred J. Cipolloni

Champ Car owners move to silence critics

Establishing a firm foundation for Champ Car

One-on-one with Champ Car President Steve Johnson

J.R. Hildebrand is one American going places in a hurry

What's new for Champ Car for 2007 - Part 1

Champ Car positions itself for international expansion

Paul Stoddart confirms interest in Champ Car

An inside look at Champ Car TV production

Ho-Pin Tung wants to be Champ Car's first Chinese driver

Stephen King explains Justin Wilson's novel Investor's Club

One-on-one with American sensation AJ Allmendinger

Champ Car moving forward without the IRL

One-on-one with Paul Tracy

Bruce Delahorne explains CDW's sponsorship in Champ Car

One-on-one with Justin Wilson

Champ Car bosses won't be bullied

Part 2: NASCAR/ISC get dirty in Phoenix, out to destroy Open Wheel

Part 1: NASCAR/ISC get dirty in Phoenix, out to destroy Open Wheel

The Rahals: Like father, like son

Why and IRL/Champ Car merger will be a big boost for the sport

Headless Open Wheel Racing appears doomed

Richard Lyons looking at Champ Car for his next challenge

We salute the champions of 2005

Is Jay Howard the next Ayrton Senna?

Interview with Grand-Am President Roger Edmondson

Otaru, Japan Champ Car race moving closer to reality

Champ Car's global appeal may ride on mimicking the Team Australia concept

Champ Car's Surfers Paradise race promoter "gets it"

Champ Car cements another brick in its foundation

Custom built Champ Cars and Indy Cars

Interview with RuSPORT Team President Jeremy Dale

Conspiracy Theory: What Indy was really all about

Why the Champ Car/IRL war must end

How a Champ Car and IRL merger might work

Will the battle for Long Beach destroy its Grand Prix?

Katherine Legge has her eyes set on Champ Car

Traveling Light Media - Just what the doctor ordered

Champ Car lays out bold 3-year plan

Champ Car's 2005 driver lineup vastly improved

Hunter-Reay anxious to get racing again with new team

That sucking sound you hear is NASCAR

Feud - The story of the murder of Mickey Thompson

Yes, Blame Tony and the CART defectors too

Interview with ALMS President Scott Atherton

2005 a foundation laying year for Champ Car

Kalkhoven talks Champ Car with AutoRacing1

Kalkhoven and Forsythe buy Cosworth from Ford

Carl Russo is bullish on Champ Car

Can this be Champ Car's next-generation car

Champ Car poised for major comeback

Champ Car Race Control - the 'Hot Seat Zone'

Open Wheel Racing is in serious need of consolidation

Champ Car South of the Border, An interview with Joe Heitzler

There is an easy way for Champ Car and the IRL to unify

From airport to race track, a race within a race

The 2-seater Car is one of Champ Car's biggest assets

Why Bernie Ecclestone could, and should, buy Champ Car now

Champ Car rocks the streets of Times Square in Manhattan

Why did Fernández leave Champ Car?  Follow the money....

Next Generation Champ Car: A call for F1 tires

Coming to America?  Interview with Ralph Firman Jr.

Open Wheel Racing defeats IRL - Champ Car Series to continue

Open Wheel Racing needs a win by OWRS - Part 2

The next generation Champ Cars - Part 2

Is CART next for Villeneuve?

New deal for CART may be better than first thought

The genius of one Bernard Ecclestone

CART Champ Cars, the next generation - Part 1

Details emerging on CART race in Seoul, South Korea

CART hits a Grand Slam in Mexico City.  Now What?

Top-10 Challenges facing new CART owners

CART can still race in Europe, but will they?

For CART, time is of the essence

Making sense of CART's situation

Push-to-Pass means no more parades for CART

An interview with CART's David Clare

What did Roger Penske really mean?

CART must differentiate itself - clearly

Why turbos make for superior street and race engines

For CART, it's now or never

Chicken or the Egg?

War of the worlds

What Bernie brings to CART

CART, Driven to where?

Is it really about CART vs. IRL?

If I were Bernie

The Champ Cars and St. Pete

An informal survey of the St. Pete race attendees

Artificial Dissemination

CART, F1 coming to grips with doing business in China

Cancel the Funeral

Why CART and F1 must, and will, share a common V-10 engine

Book Review: Autocourse 2002-2003 F1 yearbook

Does CART need Michael Andretti?

2002 CART TV ratings by the numbers

Now is the time for CART to redefine its ladder system

CART gets a taste of tifosi passion in Mexico

Love affair in Mexico

Making sense out of Bernie/CART rumors

Changing of the guard?

Mom, apple pie, CART and....Formula1?

Why CART and Bernie make perfect dance partners

Miami should be a CART and ALMS kickoff party

David slays Goliath in Miami

What to make of Gurney's F1 team

Taking it to the streets, why Miami is a war zone

CART, like the Phoenix, about to rise up from the ashes

There's more than handwriting on the wall.....and here's the concrete facts

Labor Day weekend 1952...A weekend I'll never forget

Team owners show support for CART

CART still may be in cards for Villeneuve

Bryan Herta, USA's next best chance for F1

Is Paul Ricard in CART's future?

CART's real attendance numbers

Is Brands Hatch suitable for Champ Cars?

An Unappealing Appeal, George reigns in GEORGE-town

A candid conversation with Chris Pook

More than meets the eye with CART's turbo move

It's time for CART to define its own future

Key upgrades at Road America

Back-Breaking work

The rebirth of CART

The hidden costs of Indy Car racing

CART's road and street circuits are clicking with the fans

Is it sport, or a P.T. Barnum show?

IRL at Fontana - a victim of friendly fire

CART's 2003 race venues #1 in the world

Meet the Gonzalez brothers

ISC is making enemies in Miami

Copyright 1999-2014  AutoRacing1 is an independent internet online publication and is not affiliated with, sponsored by, or endorsed by the IRL., NASCAR, FIA,  Sprint, or any other series sponsor. This material may not be published, broadcast, or redistributed without permission.