OMG Racing speaks – A chat with Alan Gardner

When I published the interview with William Storey last week, I had two aims. The first was to shine a light on a story of interest (of which I’m sure you’d agree this is). The second was to hopefully catch the attention of someone at OMG Racing and get them to talk to me. The plan worked and I sat down on the Friday of the Brands Hatch round of BSB with Alan Gardner, owner of OMG Racing.

Alan Gardner – Owner of OMG Racing

I had lots of questions and Alan wasn’t afraid to field any of them. He opened the doors to the team hospitality, invited me in and gave up precious time for me during a race weekend. We smoked and drank actual Rich Energy during the couple of hours I was with him and at no time did I get the feeling he was hiding anything. I think I’m trying to say he showed fair play. Before we get into it, there’s a caveat on the work I’ve done on this story so far, here it is.

The caveat – The Garner era Norton story was long and largely unreported before I covered it on this website. People formed opinions of Stuart Garner based on work that I published after years of interest and months of full time research. That is not the case here. I started looking at Rich Energy properly in March this year but have only spent days on this where months is required. Also, I’ve had lots of people get in touch with me privately, sharing their theories and opinions on Rich Energy, William Storey and all things related. Chapters of the Rich Energy story have already been told and a crowd has formed around them. Everyone in that crowd has subsequently formed an opinion. Each one of the messages I received requires a load of work. Is the person that sent the information real? Do they have an agenda? Is the information they sent verified? All these things take time and time ultimately costs money. Without getting too weird about all this, I prefer forming my own opinion based on a research path I’ve walked on my own. At the very least, if you’re not willing to tell me your name in a private message, you can’t expect me to take what you’re saying too seriously.  

Is Rich Energy a drink that actually exists? 

Yes, I’ve tasted it. During my chat (below) with Alan I tried both. Whether it’s something that we’ll ever see on the shelves of supermarkets and in garages across the land remains to be seen. Right now you can buy it on Amazon if you want.

Bradley Ray and Kyle Ryde – Teammates and BSB championship contenders

JH: First things first, can you reassure race fans that Brad and Kyle’s championship hopes for 2022 remain on track? 

AG: From our point of view, there’s no change whatsoever.

William Storey, making a point.

JH: When was the first time you heard about Rich Energy and William Storey? How did the relationship come about?

AG: It was before we’d even turned a wheel in BSB, it was pre HAAS. We were funding OMG Racing ourselves, had a cheap lorry and a basic team set up. 2018 I think.

JH: So they came to you?

AG: Erm, we were introduced to each other and I can’t remember which way round that introduction was made. We met and we spoke and they (Rich Energy) said that their budget wasn’t quite there to sponsor us at the time. We were speaking to lots of potential sponsors at the time who said they didn’t have the budget, so that’s a normal conversation for any race team. Rich Energy said they’d sponsor us the following year when sales were better. Again, that’s a normal thing for potential sponsors to say. Then in 2019 they sponsored HAAS. We assumed they’d made more money than they thought they would and had gone straight to F1. We (OMG Racing) were too big a team initially and then we were too small, that was that. Time rolled on, we did our thing and saw the HAAS debacle as the public saw it because that’s all we knew. They came back to us after HAAS to get involved.

JH: So that’s Rich Energy lawyers getting back in touch with you in 2019?

AG: No, William came to us at the start of 2020. I tried the drink myself and thought it was really good, from a commercial point of view I wanted a piece of it. Something had clearly fallen out of bed in F1 but we didn’t know the whole story. Away from racing we negotiated, I was involved in some of those negotiations and another company (Rich OMG Limited) was established to take on the sales and distribution rights to Rich Energy and that was that. I’m not usually very good with dates but I know that company was formed on the 23rd March 2020. About four hours after it was formed, the world went into Lockdown.

JH: So the company that was formed was what we now know as Rich OMG Limited?

AG: Yes, which if you look at a can you can see on the back as being the distributor. 

JH: Got you.

AG: Then the world changed. The core business that we were looking for, closed. Pubs, clubs and places like that all closed and we weren’t allowed out. The other main area for energy drink sales is on petrol forecourts. People weren’t driving to work so there was no trade in petrol stations. Then the big boys like Tesco and Sainsbury’s had to restructure their businesses during Lockdown because of COVID. When we were trying to talk to them about getting into stores, they were trying to reduce their lines (product on the shelves), not increase them. There was no interest in taking on new product and that made it very, very tough to get the product into the marketplace. The world is changing again now, things are opening up but it’s a tough marketplace to get a new product out there. We’re selling though, it sells well in the Baltics, we’re selling in Ireland and we’ve done some small festivals. This year should be the year that we make the push to get the drink into major supermarkets.

JH: So do you know approximately how many cans you’ve sold this year to date?

AG: Oh, not a lot at all, because of the marketplace. I don’t deal with that side of the business day to day and genuinely don’t have a figure. 

L to R: Alan Lowe, Alan Gardner, William Storey and Richard Fletcher

JH: I think some of the confusion that readers are feeling at the minute stems from the press release that I can remember getting where we could see Alan Lowe (director of OMG Racing Limited) next to you and then William Storey next to Richard Fletcher who works for Wolf Data Systems. Everybody is shaking hands and it looks like Rich Energy is sponsoring OMG Racing. We’ll come to what’s happened over the last week or so, but it transpires now that there was never a deal from Rich Energy to sponsor OMG Racing. What it actually was, was a deal for Rich OMG Limited to manage the sales and distribution of Rich Energy in the UK?

AG: We acquired the global sales and distribution rights for the drink, yes.

JH: Okay and the money that came from that (sales and distribution) is what would fund the race team

AG: The money would go to the race team as sponsorship and would be invested on behalf of that company in whatever they wanted to expand into. Yes. Maybe some people know and some people don’t but the sales and distribution rights holders for Monster Energy are Coca Cola but Coca Cola don’t put themselves on a riders leathers or anything like that. It’s about public perception, what we’re trying to do is push the brand and that’s why the branding is on the team.

JH: So if I’m right, Alan Lowe is the director of Rich OMG Limited, so where did William fit into that story and why was he in that picture that day?

AG: At the time, William was representing the drink. The brand owner and the contract that we did was with Rich Energy D.O.O. In Croatia. William was on the contract as their representative. He was the public figure of Rich. If you did a deal with, I don’t know, RyanAir, then Michael O’Leary would be there.

JH: I can picture that press release in 2020 now and I think it’s a logical follow up question to ask how much of a contribution towards team running costs that sales and distribution contract has netted you?

AG: Without going through the accounts I couldn’t put an exact figure but we’re paid. We’re paid by that distribution company yes.

JH: I wrote a feature over ten years ago with Mark Halverson Smith, who at the time was the only BSB team manager in the paddock that would open the books and show me exactly what it cost to run a BSB team.

AG: I wish I’d seen that  before we started.

JH: I know that the establishing costs to build a team from the ground up, building bikes and buying hospitality units etc can run into a million plus in year one.

AG: No it doesn’t.

JH: What does it run into then?

AG: Not into millions in year one that’s for sure. We had a truck that was twenty grand and we were running one (Suzuki) superbike.

JH: But you’re talking about a team near the back of the grid. To make your way into the top five, you effectively have to pay your way into the top five.

AG: Erm, yes and no. A bike is a bike is a bike. Every race bike starts with a road bike in line with the regulations and to be fair, the Yamaha doesn’t cost as much as a BMW or a Honda.

JH: No, but to turn any road going bike into a competitive race bike costs money. To have a huge hospitality unit costs money, to pay all the staff you have in the team is a cost. This isn’t free racing, it must cost money?

AG: Yes of course!

JH: I think the question I’m circling around here is, where is the money coming from to pay for all that?

AG: There are several other businesses that I’m involved with. I have a commercial biomass company that does well. We’re involved in a VR company, there’s a new tech company. Some of these are in the UK and some are not and then obviously there’s the drink. Although the drink hasn’t done as much as we’d like it to.

JH: Is there a percentage of your team running costs that you can attribute as a direct contribution from the sales of Rich Energy?

AG: Not as much as I’d like it to be [we both laugh a lot here]. But for two years the market hasn’t been there for us so that’s an investment.

JH: Less than ten percent? More than ten percent?

AG: I’d like to think it was more than ten percent. Any new business needs investing in…

JH: Sorry to cut across you, I get that new businesses need investment, but no team should have to invest in a sponsor?

AG: You’ve got to take the team away from the sponsor. Yes there are management links between them but I’m sure there are in others. 

JH: I can’t think of a team in any paddock where the team is responsible for managing the income from a sponsor

AG: But the team isn’t.

JH: So who is? Who do you speak to from your sponsor that says “Hey mate, sales have been good this month, here’s the net result of those sales that you’re managing the distribution for”.

AG: It depends what you class as a team. If you mean me, I don’t run the team. Paul Curran is the team principle. If I didn’t turn up here this week, this would still happen. I’m just a fan.

JH: But you’re wearing that shirt and we’re drinking this drink sat where we are (outside the OMG Racing hospitality unit), so there must be an amount of assumed responsibility that you have somewhere in the chain between either team or sponsor?

AG: Paul Curran runs the team for me. He organises everything, all the technical expertise and staffing is done through Paul. He’s our expert.

JH: Agreed, but he comes to you with a bill for his work?

AG: Yes.

JH: And you pay that bill with a combination of?

AG: My own personal business interests which over time will be mitigated as the Rich Energy distribution contributes more and more. We’ve been treading water through lockdown as we haven’t been able to sell the drink in the places where we expected to sell it. We’re in protracted talks with a major supermarket now, as a ballpark figure and at the point they say yes, we can expect that one deal to fund this team 15 times over.

JH: Right, wow. Just from UK sales alone?

AG: Yes. That’s why we’re happy to invest in this business (the sales and distribution of Rich Energy), because the returns could be enormous. You only have to look at Red Bull, who we have no aspirations of ever being as big as.

William Storey minus the beard and plus his pet Cheetah.

JH: Despite William Storey having those aspirations. Which he has publicly stated.

AG: Erm, I would say that William’s view on it would be the same as ours, that we want to be better than them. We believe the product is better, cleaner and crisper. The energy drink market is worth eighty billion dollars a year. If Rich Energy attracted one percent of that, we’re turning over eight hundred million. You don’t need much of the market share to have rather large reserves that can be pumped into other things. In the same way that Red Bull and Monster do, the brand is built on public awareness. We could build academies and sponsor more riders. Red Bull own F1 tracks! There’s a lot of money there but most of it get’s spent re marketing the brand. You’d have to assume that around 80 percent of all this would go back in. With a smaller management team, we would have more choice to direct that money where we want to and where we’re passionate and for me that’s this sport. We don’t have the weather to nurture talent like the Spanish do, but if we had the money we could build a track inside a climate controlled building that would get them ready to race on the world stage. We can’t afford to do that at the minute because we don’t have enough business. Once we get one supermarket that would fund this one team 15 times over, we could fill this paddock but we don’t want to do that. But what we could do is fund a 100 smaller race teams or do football or some other popular sport that helps get kids outdoors. On those scales, if one supermarket gives us all that, imagine what’s possible if three or four want to stock Rich Energy. We have an institutional investor involved that was putting a lot of money into the brand to grow it as well as the distribution.

JH: I can see on Companies House there’s a million pound creditor listed for Rich OMG Limited, is that money that you owe that institutional investor that you’ve just mentioned?

AG: No

JH: Right. Is that one creditor or more?

AG: I couldn’t answer specifically, it could be two or three or four but it’s certainly not a thousand creditors. Some will be for stock and equipment. Debt is only a problem if you’re not servicing it. The country runs on debt. As long as you’re within the agreed terms of paying that debt, it’s perfectly fine and normal.

JH: That’s fair. So that vision of one supermarket supplying you the opportunity to grow the net income to 15 times what it is now is a beautiful vision, or it would have been had Rich Energy not tweeted what they tweeted last Sunday. The team is smashing it in the championship, so it’s weird to see a sponsor pulling out. Talk to me about that.

AG: But they’re not our sponsor.

JH: Agreed but until last Sunday I thought they were.

AG: Things are happening behind the scenes I can’t prejudice but I can give you some things. I don’t have the statement in front of me, but it looked like OMG Racing were doing a deal with Rich Energy that had fallen through. I can easily clarify that. OMG Racing have never done a deal with William Storey or Rich D.O.O who own the Rich Energy brand. The deal with OMG Racing has only ever been with Rich OMG Limited, of which I own a part of and have a vested interest in because it helps pay for this (racing) and will hopefully allow us to do a lot more for the sport, which is our aim. There was a (separate) deal on the table and agreed between Rich OMG, Rich D.O.O and William Storey. The deal was to be that Rich OMG were going to buy an actual part of the brand itself. We were offered to buy 30 percent of the brand and we said yes, because the world was opening back up and it was the right time to do so.

JH: So we’re talking Q4 2021 here?

AG: Yes, the end of last year and beginning of this year. It’s not that COVID was gone, but we could see the market opening up again. We were offered the chance to buy part of the brand and we said yes. We then spoke to our institutional investors to invest into Rich OMG and secured investment into Rich OMG of fifty million pounds.

JH: Fifteen million? One five million?

AG: No, fifty. Five zero million.

JH: Shit a dog!

AG: Remember this is a market worth eighty billion and our institutional investor looked at it in the same way we did. Our projections was to assume a 4.75 percent global share in five years, at which point the Rich brand would be turning over two and a half billion a year.

JH: So thirty percent of that (Rich Energy) equals good numbers.

AG: They’re good numbers. They’re nothing like Red Bull numbers but this is the money in energy drinks. We all know that, I’m not saying anything that nobody knows. People linked to the management side of the institutional investor are also involved in supermarket distribution logistics, so they looked at this and decided they could guarantee a certain level of sales. I have their agreement to that investment in black and white contractual form. However, part of their due diligence in what we were doing as part of their investment would be used to purchase the (30 percent) equity in Rich D.O.O, was to prove the ownership of the brand laid with Rich D.O.O and they’ve yet to receive that proof.

JH: So the due diligence that you’re talking about here is on Rich D.O.O and William Storey? Are you saying (contrary to the Rich Energy statement on social media) that you didn’t get the answers from them to satisfy your due diligence?

AG: We haven’t been able to get proof of IP ownership

JH: Of Rich Energy?

AG: Yep.

JH: Interesting.

AG: Yep.

This German company owns various IP relating to the word Rich and fizzy drinks.

JH: Who do you think owns the IP on Rich Energy? Is it a German company?

AG: There is a German company that has some ownership of the word Rich in certain categories but I’m not an IP lawyer. Apparently the liquidator from the HAAS days may have rights in certain things. That’s all with our legal team at the moment.

JH: Would you call this a mess?

AG: Yes. Yep. And it shouldn’t be. When we got involved we did our due diligence through lawyers and assurances were made. To be brutally honest, I don’t know where things are at the moment. The contracts which Rich OMG Limited have are with Rich D.O.O, a Croatian company. It was a contract from February or March 2020 that was valid for four years, with certain sales performance targets in there. All of which have been met, even during lockdown.

JH: So to clarify this. By sales targets, you mean a certain number of sales of cans of Rich Energy? And you (Rich OMG Limited) have achieved those targets. These targets were stipulations made in the contract with Rich D.O.O with William Storey as a representative of Rich D.O.O in return for assigning Rich OMG Limited the global sales and distribution rights to Rich Energy for a period of four years?

AG: Yes, so we’re not in breach of contract. 

JH: So would you have a ballpark figure of what those sales targets were? Are we talking hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands of cans?

AG: Hundreds of thousands

JH: Ah okay, that’s cool. So up until Q4 2021 you’re hitting sales targets and the lawyers of your institutional investors are doing due diligence with a view to you (Rich OMG) buying a thirty percent stake in Rich D.O.O and the stumbling block basically being that Rich D.O.O don’t have the logbook for Rich Energy?

AG: Basically, yes.

JH: So you could you see the announcement we all saw on Twitter coming?

AG: I’m surprised the announcement came, I’m not surprised by the information in it.

JH: Okay, so let’s backtrack slightly to December 2021, why was there a change of name registered at Companies House, from Rich Energy Omg Racing Limited to just OMG Racing Limited?

AG: Because OMG Racing are going to compete in another two-wheeled championships that won’t necessarily be backed by Rich Energy.

JH: Okay, a big one?

AG: Well it’s not MotoGP or World Superbikes, you’ll have to wait and see.

JH: So let’s change the subject. What do you think the public’s perception of this team and is this week, given the announcement that was made?

AG: Well from what I’ve seen I’d say confusion. I thought our statement was clear, clearly it wasn’t. We wanted to put out a statement that had nothing but facts. I wanted that to be clear, but clearly it isn’t. The team is going nowhere, we’re already planning for next year. 

JH: So what about the counter statement from Rich Energy stating that you shouldn’t be running any Rich Energy logos at all in the BSB paddock?

AG: Well at the moment I don’t think anyone knows who owns the rights to the name or the logos. I have nothing official telling me to remove them.

JH: So nothing from their lawyers?

AG: I’ve had nothing from their lawyers. If I get told by a court to remove something, of course I will but until that point I can’t. The race team has a contract with Rich OMG limited to display this logo and wording on certain assets (bikes, trucks, leathers etc). If I remove the branding then I’m in breach of that contract and I’m not going to do that. If the liquidator from the HAAS days takes me to court and asks me to remove it then I’ll do it.

JH: So somebody has to prove that they own it (the brand) before they can tell you to remove it?

AG: That would be nice, yes. From day one we’ve been operating in good faith that certain people owned the brand, now I’m not so sure. I’m certainly not going to remove this branding off the back of a tweet. Think about how much it would cost to have new leathers made, new paint on the bikes, the trucks and everything else. There are huge implications with making those kinds of changes to a team mid season.

JH: Agreed, but it seems to be okay for Rich Energy to announce those changes mid season and rock your boat?

AG: Yes it does seem that way. 

JH: Do you speak to William Storey, daily, weekly or monthly?

AG: I haven’t spoken to William Storey for quite some time. I haven’t spoken to him since the TT.

JH: How would you describe your relationship with him?

AG: Well following the announcement I’m not sure we have a relationship but prior to that I’ve never badmouthed him and wouldn’t. It’s not something I would do. There are times where I’ve been exasperated with William over the last couple of years and there’s been times where I’ve thought he was fantastic.

JH: What do you think he’s good at?

AG: [pauses and thinks for 17 seconds] When he mentions Rich and talks about the brand it gets picked up by a lot of people and there are arguments to say that that’s a good thing. Although there is such a thing as bad publicity

JH: So, exactly what is he good at then?

AG: He’s good at helping people recognise that the brand exists, he’s done that. We’ve got reports showing Rich Energy is the fifth most recognised energy drink in the world.

JH: Not the fifth best selling, but the fifth most recognised?

AG: Most recognised yes. From a brand point of view there’s a value in being recognised that can be capitalised on with a marketing strategy when done correctly. If most of the world has heard of you, they’ll respond positively when you manage things correctly.

JH: Last few questions. I’ve heard, because it’s been widely reported, that William Storey rents Regus offices by the hour and lives in a caravan. What’s your response to that?

AG: The offices I know for a fact but lots of companies do. I know of big supermarket chains that sold their offices years ago because it doesn’t make sense to own them. I have no problem with that, we rent our offices. It’s the right thing to do. As for William’s personal living conditions, I genuinely have no idea what they are. I’ve never been to his house.

Periwinkle blue, boys.

JH: So you wouldn’t know if he lives in a caravan or a mansion?

AG: I wouldn’t have a clue in the same way that I don’t know if you live in a caravan or a mansion

JH: Trust me, I don’t live in either. 

AG: Somebody’s living conditions don’t necessarily mean anything at all.

JH: Okay. What do you think the best possible outcome of this situation can be in the next 90 days for the relationship between Rich D.O.O and Rich OMG Limited?

AG: I think it would be absolute clarity on ownership of the brand, that would in turn help the direction of the brand. That is going to help Rich OMG deal with supermarkets and wider distribution.

JH: So in a worst case scenario, if you had to strip all of this branding off everything to do with the team, can you reassure BSB fans that the team, Bradley Ray and Kyle Ryde are financially safe for the remainder of the 2022 BSB season?

AG: We know that racing is a mental game. Anything that gets into a rider’s head can have an impact. You can lose one percent of your performance because you’re thinking about that you shouldn’t be wasting your time on and before you know it you’ve lost ten grid places. The first thing I did when the announcement from Rich Energy came out on Twitter was shared a message on the team WhatsApp group chat. I said that this was nothing to worry about. The entire team know that OMG Racing has never received a single penny from William Storey. That OMG Racing was funded by myself and two friends from day one. It’s been funded from other sponsors and other businesses we have. I’ve seen various posts from various people over the last week talking about debt that we might have. I can’t think of a single business apart from possibly Apple that doesn’t have debt. Debt is not an issue as long as you service it. The team are absolutely focused and know that everything is secure. OMG Racing are going nowhere and, fingers crossed we win the championship.

JH: Alan, thanks very much for your time.

Drazen Majstrovic

What do I think is happening?

In short, I think the ownership of the Rich Energy IP is the biggest question here. Getting to the bottom of the power play between William Storey and Drazen Majstrovic (listed as the owner of Rich D.O.O) would be handy. As it is the full fat cans are clearly stamped Distributed by Rich Energy Ltd, the sugar free versions say Distributed by Rich OMG Limited. There’s work to be done in clarifying who owns the IP that will dictate who retains the right to sell and distribute the drink, here in the UK or anywhere else in the world. IP issues aside, I think that William Storey was involved in brokering a deal with the Alans that would grant Rich OMG Limited global sales and distribution rights to the drink.

I think it’s possible that William Storey subsequently offered a similar deal to Steve Dudman, who runs the BTC team in the British Touring Car Championship. I’ve sent a message to him asking for some clarity and will update this piece with that info when I get it. 

Things to consider – Social Media

If you like keeping up to speed with the OMG Racing team in BSB, follow this account and get nothing but racing. I think it’s safe to assume that William Storey controls all the other Rich Energy related Twitter feeds (apart from those that mention the word ‘distribution’, those ones are in the hands of OMG). It doesn’t really matter who controls them, but I think it is important that you understand that in some cases, you’ll be getting the opinion of an individual on a brand channel. 

What happens next?

I went back to Brands Hatch the day after I met with Alan. A day in the sunshine lead to more sit down talks with Alan who was joined by Alan Lowe. As per the Friday, the Alans didn’t shy away from anything I asked and were very accommodating. They were relatively tight lipped here and there due to legal reasons, but seemed confident of their position. I think lawyers are talking to other lawyers behind the scenes and am as fascinated to see the outcome as they are confident of it. 

Mike Booth

If you’ve made it this far, humour me and read this last paragraph. 44 Teeth journalist and all round good guy Mike Booth crashed at the TT this year and as a result, had his right leg amputated below the knee. There’s a crowdfunder for Boothy here, which I’d really like you to donate whatever you see fit to. If you can prove you’ve made a donation (however small) as a result of reading this, I’ll stick your name in the hat to win a signed (by the OMG Racing Alans) can of Sugar Free Rich Energy. I’ll even throw in a can of the full fat stuff. Thanks very much.

The Alans were happy to sign a can for me to hawk for Boothy cash.

Words: John Hogan Images: BSB media, Twitter and Vedran Balen