Oct 23 (Reuters) - Michael Andretti is convinced there is another Lewis Hamilton out there somewhere and he is going to find him.
There is also another Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher and Dale Earnhardt amongst a goldmine of motor racing talent waiting to be unearthed.
There could also be the next Serena Williams, Muhammad Ali or Tiger Woods all looking for a helping hand and Andretti wants a cut of that action as well.
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As the owner/operator of a growing global motor racing empire, the 58-year-old Andretti, the son of American motorsport icon Mario Andretti, runs cars in multiple series from IndyCar to Extreme E, the electric off-road circuit.
While there is a huge pool of driving talent to draw on to put in his cars, Andretti is convinced superstar drivers have seen their careers stalled by a lack of funding, not talent.
To help in that effort, Andretti has bought an equity stake in Evolution Development Group (EVO), an athletic development company that aims to turn top contenders in individual professional sports into champions through fan investment.
Part management company, part America's Got Talent, EVO's business plan is based on scouting for promising athletes who are struggling financially and providing them with world class development and support for a share of their future earnings.
"Yes, there is talent on the sidelines but there may be superstars that are being left out and this is going to help find those superstars," Andretti told Reuters. "I can tell you if you are a superstar you are not going to be sitting on the sidelines.
"There is a lot of talent on the sidelines but I don't see any real superstars sitting on the sidelines (right now)."
EVO, which is having its stock offering qualified by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, will also be bringing a new form of fan engagement, with investors sharing in financial success.
Investors will be betting on Andretti and EVO's ability to find and nurture talent that could literally pay dividends throughout the athlete's entire career.
"People who invest in EVO will be investing in the company which will have contracts with multiple athletes," EVO CEO John Norman told Reuters in an email.
"Investors will not be investing in an individual athlete, but rather in all of the athletes in the EVO stable.
"We plan to share 5% of all EVO revenues from our athletes with the investors.
"Each contract will be tailored to the athlete.
"In some cases, the contracts could be for an entire career, in others, for a shorter time period."
Hamilton's rise from a kid growing up on a housing estate in the town of Stevenage in the south of England to six-time Formula One world champion is the stuff of Hollywood fantasy.
However, while the Briton got to the top on talent, it was McLaren and Mercedes who spotted it early and nurtured his progress.
Hamilton ranks 13th on Forbes highest paid athletes list for 2020 with $53 million in salary/winnings and endorsements.
In 2017 the magazine had pegged seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher's career earnings at $1 billion.
If discovered by EVO, investors would have realised a tidy profit from their portion of a 5% return.
Andretti said that for larger investors there is money to be made, while for others the dividend will be a fun interest.
Today, even at the highest level of motorsport, to get a seat you often need to be better salesmen or woman than drivers.
The U.S-owned Haas Formula One team announced on Thursday that it would have a new driver lineup next season, saying goodbye to Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen for financial reasons.
Those two seats are expected to be filled by drivers who not only bring talent but sponsorship to the team.
EVO will not provide direct sponsorship to an athlete but will give them the tools to find funding along with everything from management and training to promotion and nutrition.
"The biggest problem with racing is that it’s very expensive to race," said Andretti. "You can have all the talent in the world and love it more than anything, but if you don’t have the backing, you’re probably not going to make it. "I think there is so much talent wasted out there that they just didn't have the means to get to the next level so they never got that chance. EVO is going to give them that chance." (Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Ken Ferris)
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