Why a leading French banker opted for a radical career change
The late actor Steve McQueen’s oft-quoted remark that ‘racing is life – everything else is just waiting’ could well be applied to Xavier Micheron who, until five years ago, was at the peak of his career as a high-flying investment banker.
In 2013, however, he gave it all up to followed his dream of spending more time collecting and driving post-1950 racing cars – a decision that led to the formation of the Ascott Collection that has now developed into a highly respected brokerage service operating on the outskirts of Paris, just a few kilometres from the palace of Versailles.
“I currently have about 13 cars in the collection but, like many historic racing enthusiasts, I tend to sell one in order to buy another, so the collection is always evolving. When I made this dramatic change in my life, various people who heard what I was doing asked me to sell and source cars on their behalf, and now I offer that service as a business, always on an exclusive mandate basis.”
Micheron loves to research the history of his cars and meet the people who originally designed them, and has a tenacious attitude towards getting it right. During his ownership of one of the two Howmet TX gas turbine cars built during the 1960s, for example, he spent two years working with specialist engineers to develop a replacement for its missing wastegate system, without which the car was virtually undriveable on track.
He employs no in-house engineers or technicians, preferring instead to track down the best specialists in their field on the basis that “Someone who is an expert on a certain type of Ferrari might not have any experience with a certain model of Porsche.”
Although he has a particular passion for cars from the 1950s – he has raced a Lister Jaguar and Lotus 15, for example – Micheron is now heavily involved in Group C machines and currently has six on his books, including a 1987 Porsche 962C, a 1988 Spice SE88P and a 1990 Nissan NPT90.
“We have made a great deal of progress in five years, and the Ascott Collection has become truly international,” says Micheron, who recently sold the unique 1967 Nomad MK1 to Japan and has since worked on behalf of clients from around the world – despite suggestions when he started the business that there might not be sufficient call for such a specialist service.
“People said the market was already being served by the bigger specialists in the UK and that it was too much of a niche area for a small broker to be successful. But I think the fact that it is a very, very small world means that when you are active in it you meet everyone, you share a passion and the business comes from there.
“Put it this way – I’m definitely not going back to banking!”