Big money in sports celebrity insurance

Squash champion Datuk Nicol David is a national sports star who we should take good care of

SOMETIMES, the most interesting business news are to be found in the sports pages.

There’s a lot of money in sports and while the stars and the managers may get more media attention, the bankers and financial analysts could be the ones calling the shots.

I am no fan of Cristiano Ronaldo but he is certainly making a lot of “business news” these days,

Real Madrid paid a fortune to bring him out of Manchester United (see Monday Starters, The Real-ity of Life, July 13).

And now the Spanish club has insured Ronaldo’s most precious assets, his pair of legs, for the princely sum of £90mil.

If I were heading the insurance company, I would certainly demand the highest possible premium from Real. After all, in just three pre-season games, the Portuguese has already been fouled 34 times, so one can imagine how high his risk is once the season starts.

This is not something that fans think about. Ordinary people like us will buy life, medical, accident and perhaps fire insurance. But I doubt if any of us would think our body parts are so important that we insure them.

But actually all major insurance companies insure body parts of celebrities, especially of those in entertainment and sports.

It makes for interesting reading, certainly, although we have to be careful to separate fact from fiction.

According to a report in the reputable financial information website, the origins of celebrity insurance can be traced back to the 1920s, when silent movie star Ben Turpin, famed for his crossed eyes, took out a US$20,000 policy against them uncrossing.

“Female stars, perhaps more conscious of their attributes, raised the stakes. Marlene Dietrich insured her voice for a cool US$1mil, and Betty Grable insured her dynamite legs for the same amount – thus coining the phrase ‘million-dollar legs’. By comparison, dancer Fred Astaire had his legs insured for a paltry US$75,000 per leg,” Larry Getlen wrote.

I won’t go into the more interesting parts that celebrities like Dolly Parton want insured but I would agree that the late flamboyant pianist Liberace, along with French pianist Richard Clayderman and Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards had good reasons to insure their hands.

Interestingly enough, Bruce Springsteen and Rod Stewart too insured their one-of-a-kind voices.

Apparently, insuring individual sports celebrities is a fairly recent phenomenon.

It is often the team that is insured rather than the star player.

But things are obviously changing, as Ronaldo’s insurance policy shows.

David Beckham, now with the LA Galaxy, is reportedly insured for more than £100mil but the legs are worth only £70mil, so Ronaldo can take heart that he still has the most expensive legs on a football pitch.

Looking at the standard of our Malaysian football players, I doubt if any insurance company would be approaching them.

But if there is one Malaysian sports star who we should take good care of, it must be our squash champion Datuk Nicol David. I wonder if CIMB has taken out a policy on her hands and legs. That would be a wise investment, surely.

LI>Deputy executive editor Soo Ewe Jin is more concerned that ordinary people do not have to pay extraordinary premiums to protect themselves from expensive medical bills.

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