Niki Lauda: How to make money and hold onto it

The Formula One legend is well known as an exceptionally good businessman. Although he was born rich, Nicki Lauda can describe himself as a self-made millionaire. In his newly published book, he talks about money.

Actually he should just drop it, but Niki Lauda doesn’t do that. "Reden wir über Geld" (Let’s Talk About Money) is the title of his book written in German and released this week. The book goes against the advice of his father who set down the rules when Lauda was ten years old: “You don’t talk about money. And if you ask again you’ll get a few slaps.”

Lauda is now 66 and a self-made multi-millionaire, despite coming from a wealthy Viennese industrial family. But his privileged background didn’t help him break into Formula One. His grandfather refused him any support. Lauda did it alone, running up debts of 350,000 marks so that he could fulfill his dream of being a racing car driver.

Threats to the federal chancellor

Throughout his career, from his early days in school to his success as a businessman, Lauda says he never compromised. A notoriously poor student, he forged the certificate for his school leaving exam.

Lauda got his first airline licence for Lauda Air when he threatened the then Austrian federal chancellor Fred Sinowatz with protests in the capital. Lauda has never compromised his stance on money.

No emotion, only figures

“When I think of money I only see figures. No notes, no coins, no emotion. I love figures,” he writes. His guiding principles may appear simplistic but success in money matters often lies in sticking to simple principles.

“If you want to be rich, your need to own money must be greater than your need to spend it,” is one of Lauda’s nuggets of wisdom. And the secret of his success is also given away: “Go your own way regardless of resistance. The money will follow.”

Doing the opposite

Those are the words of someone who also says he has always done the opposite of what everyone else thought was right. “It always worked out well for me.” Very well in fact. Lauda now has a fortune in the “three-figure millions“.

No other Formula One driver in history has capitalized on his success on the tarmac as well as Lauda. He has sold two airlines, Lauda Air and Niki Air.

If the cap fits

Since the legendary accident at the Nürburging in 1976, Lauda has always worn a cap to cover the burn scars on his head. With that trademark cap he made millions in sponsorship advertising. For three years Lauda wore the red cap of the Swiss technology company OC Oerlikon.

Lauda always kept emotion and money strictly separate. “You must work hard and be able to let go at the right moment. Melancholy is pointless.”

Hard but fair

He always went into negotiations with this attitude. Hard, without emotion, almost disinterested – but fair. Money that has been earned in an unfair way brings no luck, the three-times Forumla One champions says.

It is possible that his business principles or his aversion to showing off and flashy events have earned him a reputation as a miser. But in fact he is not miserly at all, we discover in Lauda’s book, only thrifty. You should never spend more than you earn.


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