The su­per­car bro­ker

His se­cret world un­cov­ered

Auto Car (UK) - - THIS WEEK -

Want a Bu­gatti Ch­i­ron but don’t want to join the back of a three-year wait­ing list? He can get you a car in a cou­ple of months, but only if you’ll pay ¤1 mil­lion over its face value. Or per­haps you need one of the 25 race ver­sions of the As­ton Martin Valkyrie hy­per­car be­ing built? Well, you’re look­ing at an ask­ing price of ¤3.3 m – a pre­mium of ¤1.5m.

His line of busi­ness sounds like a quick way to make a buck, right? But he’s not just here to take your money. For months be­fore the Fer­rari 812 Superfast was re­vealed, he was warn­ing would-be buy­ers off in­vest­ing in the Fer­rari F12 tdf. Lim­ited to 799 units and sold out in a blink, the F12 tdf quickly be­came supremely de­sir­able – but on the day the 812 Superfast burst on to the scene, F12 tdf values plunged ¤100,000, largely be­cause the two are so close in per­for­mance terms. He can save your money as well as spend it – and he’ll even tell you what colour you want your car in if you want to earn a 10% pre­mium come re­sale time.

Su­per­car bro­kers are prob­a­bly as pop­u­lar as es­tate agents. There are en­thu­si­asts who hate them for trad­ing cars like a com­mod­ity rather than some­thing to cher­ish. There are man­u­fac­tur­ers who hate them be­cause they profit from the car maker’s hard work. And there are fel­low deal­ers who hate them be­cause they’re all after the same cus­tom and, in a busi­ness where rep­u­ta­tion is ev­ery­thing, ri­vals like to throw a bit of mud.

As ever in life, knowl­edge is the se­cret to suc­cess. ‘He’ is Si­mon Fragopou­los. He’s 41 but a new kid on the block in busi­ness terms. Born to a Greek fa­ther, but a Ger­man pass­port holder and based in Switzer­land, he set up his su­per­car bro­ker­age just over 12 months ago. He has no af­fil­i­a­tion to Au­to­car and we’ve no in­side knowl­edge of his busi­ness, ei­ther good or bad, but he came to our at­ten­tion when he started to make head­lines with some of his stock. Early on, there were Fer­rari La­fer­raris and Mclaren P1s at eye-wa­ter­ing prices. More re­cently, he’s se­cured an early ex­am­ple of the sold-out Ford GT for Euro­pean de­liv­ery this au­tumn – at ¤200,000 over list price.

“I worked in bank­ing in my 20s, made some good money and en­joyed a few su­per­cars of my own,” he says. “Then my wife and I set up a mar­ket­ing com­pany, which was pretty suc­cess­ful but in­volved work­ing for other peo­ple. We wanted to try some­thing for our­selves, and the top-end car mar­ket is where we found suc­cess.

“Peo­ple can have their opin­ions on what we do, but the sim­ple ex­pla­na­tion is that we bring cars that aren’t on the mar­ket to the mar­ket, and we sell them to peo­ple who want to buy them.”

Fragopou­los is un­usual among his fra­ter­nity

for be­ing free-talk­ing and pulling few punches, but he’s also pas­sion­ate about what he does. He dis­tances him­self from ac­cu­sa­tions of prof­i­teer­ing, point­ing out that most of the cars he sells he never owns. “The owner is tak­ing 90-95% of the profit, as they should,” he says. “My role is in mak­ing and fa­cil­i­tat­ing the deals. Be­lieve me, there are kids out there try­ing to make ¤50,000 on ev­ery car sale but that just isn’t re­al­is­tic – or if that is the profit mar­gin, then the has­sle in­volved is off the scale. The in­ter­net has ended those days for­ever, be­cause buy­ers can look up what a car is worth at the click of a but­ton. They’re smarter and so the bro­kers need to be, too.”

Con­tacts, says Fragopou­los, are key, and he doesn’t sugar-coat the world he works in. “You need a client data­base, a con­tacts book and good stock,” he says. “That’s sim­pler to say than do, espe­cially in a world some­times in­hab­ited by sharks. Some of the tricks peo­ple play are un­real – and that’s peo­ple with long-stand­ing rep­u­ta­tions as of­ten as new kids. It’s as­tound­ing how greedy some peo­ple are, both own­ers and deal­ers.

“That’s the flip­side of the in­ter­net: while prices are more pub­licly avail­able, it’s also easy to find ex­am­ples of inf lated prices, and peo­ple don’t like to think that they’ve un­der­sold or over­bought. It is not a mar­ket that is ter­ri­bly well grounded in re­al­ity. I work with rich, clever peo­ple – I won’t over­pay or over­charge, or ap­ply big mar­gins – but be­cause I have con­tacts in the US, Europe and Rus­sia, I know where to find the right peo­ple and can make money be­cause I sell cars ev­ery week, not ev­ery few months.”

In­evitably, Fragopou­los sees his busi­ness from an­gles that suit him, but even he ad­mits to some heartache over see­ing cars bought as in­vest­ments. “That’s the ma­jor­ity of busi­ness, if I’m hon­est,” he says. “It’s a fact that if you put miles on a car, then you dent its value. You can own, drive and make money, but it will al­ways be worth less if you’ve driven it. I’ve got one client with about ¤70m worth of Porsches and Fer­raris – a 959 S, a 288 GTO, a 599, you name it – all of them the low­est­mileage ex­am­ples in the world. He’s got a team of peo­ple look­ing after them all, but they’ve never turned a wheel. His money, his cars, his choice.”

Get­ting stock is eas­ier in some cases than oth­ers. The afore­men­tioned Ford GT be­longs to a cus­tomer “who wants to flip the car and make some quick money”, says Fragopou­los, who hints that other own­ers are un­daunted by non-sales clauses in their con­tracts and are now in con­tact with him to do the same. He’s cool on deal­ing new Fer­raris, though, and espe­cially La­fer­rari Aper­tas, be­cause cus­tomers have to agree not to sell the cars on for 18 months after re­ceiv­ing

It’s hard to op­er­ate in a mar­ket that moves so quickly

them, and the pun­ish­ment for get­ting caught is ex­pul­sion from the fac­tory’s pri­or­ity list.

“It’s too much has­sle,” says Fragopou­los. “You can get around it, by buy­ing a car in a com­pany name and leas­ing it on or trans­fer­ring own­er­ship within the com­pany, but it’s com­pli­cated and frowned upon by the fac­tory.

“That in it­self drives the mar­ket crazy. Aper­tas were all pre-sold at around ¤1.85m, rose to ¤2.5m be­fore the pub­lic had seen them, hit ¤2.6m when the car was re­vealed and skipped to ¤4m and then ¤5m, just like that. It’s hard to op­er­ate in a mar­ket that moves that fast.”

He hints with­out nam­ing names at the ways some su­per­car bro­kers al­ways seem to get stock from cer­tain man­u­fac­tur­ers, too. “Some­times it’s about who you know and how you treat them,” he says. “Some­one on the man­u­fac­turer side has to de­cide how al­lo­ca­tions are given out, and let’s just say that in some firms, those peo­ple seem to do very well out of that po­si­tion of in­flu­ence.”

Fragopou­los ad­mits he barely bought or sold a car for his first few months in busi­ness be­cause no­body knew whether to trust him and he ac­cepts there have been bumps along the way – “I sold a Vey­ron to some­one who de­cided not to pay, which took some sort­ing out” – but he’s also clear that he’s here to stay. “If you have a cir­cle of friends who like cars and have sim­i­lar tastes, buy and trade that way. You don’t need a bro­ker,” he says. “But if you don’t, or if you want a choice of any car, call me.”

Fragopou­los: “I sell cars ev­ery week, not ev­ery few months”

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