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Chapter 14: Wealth and Influence.

Simon was currently sitting in a well-lit studio while wearing a casual, grey suit. Across from him sat a man with glasses who seemed to be in his early thirties wearing a full suit. There were more than three cameras pointed at the duo from three different angles and a lot of spotlights shining on them.

Simon, who was comfortably settled in his seat, was smiling kindly. On the other hand, the man who was across from him was facing the camera as he spoke:

"Welcome Ladies and Gentlemen to the Brandermill Review. We have a special guest with us today on November 10, 2012, Simon Emerson. Mr. Emerson is the owner of the Brandermill Football Club, a major local businessman and investor as well as one of the richest, if not the richest person in our small city. Thank you for joining us today Mr. Emerson."

"Thank you for having me Edward"

"Alright Simon. Let's just get into it. Even though the Emerson family bank is not new, your foray into multiple different sectors such as investing, and club ownership came out of nowhere a few months ago. What led to this?"

"Well Edward, it is not unknown that the city council accepted a deal from Proscan International to establish a branch in the city. My family's small bank would not have been able to compete with such a large bank, so I decided to sell the bank to proscan. Fortunately, this gave me a bit of free time and some capital to start investing in other sectors."

"I see. Well, do you believe that the city council's plans to modernize the city could lead to more and more local and historical businesses shutting down due to the arrival of bigger competitors like in your case."

"Naturally Edward, that is a real possibility. However, bigger competition might not necessarily be a bad thing if the local businesses are willing to adapt and improve. This is of course under the assumption that the city council provides an atmosphere conducive to local business and protects against predatory practices from bigger companies."

"What sort of predatory practices?"

"The most common Is simply buying the properties of local businesses from their owners and bank and simply evicting them. If the city council discourages such practices from bigger companies, I believe that the bigger competitor will lead to the city's economy thriving."

Simon was not making this up as this was exactly how bigger companies in his past live got local businesses to leave after the wave of development that will happen over the next year. Businesses such as the ones owned by his granduncles were the first to be hit, which is why he was even bothering to take this interview.

Edward simply continued after looking at one of his que cards for a second:

"Speaking of predatory practices; The Brandermill football club has a number of associated businesses that provide services for it. These businesses are all companies you indirectly hold a substantial stake in, making it seem slightly predatory."

Simon looked closely at Edward with the smile still on his face but with much less kindness before he replied:

"I don't see how this is predatory. Care to enlighten me Edward."

"Alright, imagine two companies were competing for a contract with your club. Given your previous track record, it is possible that whichever company is willing to sell you the most shares would be the one to receive the contract. This indirectly coerces companies to fall into your fold to receive your business, which sounds predatory if I say so myself."

"I see why you would think that Edward, and even though such a thing is not illegal, it is extremely predatory. However, I would like to state for the record that this is not how much club does business. We do give preference to associated companies through EPD Holdings, however, we never give contracts in return for stakes."

"How about the accusations that you have acquired the club through what was essentially a hostile takeover last May."

"That is simply not true. The club having just been relegated and in tremendous debt was happily sold to me by the previous share holder. Considering I myself was a shareholder at the time, I simply took control instead of taking over."

"Let's talk a bit about the club then Simon. You're firing or loaning of almost all the players that were here last season was extreme to say the least. How can you justify that to the fans and supporters who grew to love and support those players?"

"Well Edward, at the risk of sounding slightly heartless, last season was a disaster. So, I simply wiped the slate clean and restarted with a new team under a new manager and a philosophy of wining and more, and I think it is clear how that has been going these last few months with the team sitting comfortably at a playoff position. I would also like to make it clear that I actually didn't fire any player, but that they've left on their own accord after the near relegation, I simply refused to offer contracts to people who would abandon the club at its moment of need and I refuse to apologize for that."

"Considering you have invested quite a bit into the club, notably the BFC Youth Academy which was recently opened, how would you describe your vision is for the club?"

"What I want for the club is a legacy. As a businessman, I am tempted to say profitability, but as a lifelong fan of the Brandies, I want them to succeed and reach higher heights. Manager Pelletier will be the man to take us there, and I hope for the supporters to follow."

"Alright Simon, one last question before we wrap this interview up. As one of last months 'most eligible bachelors', interest in the state of your private love life has been rather high with many wondering what the situation is like on that front."

Simon was slightly taken back by the question which he didn't expect at all. But after a few seconds, an enigmatic smile appeared on his face as he spoke:

"Well, that is unexpected. All I will say is that if a certain girl was willing to give me a chance, we would not be having this conversation."

"Oh. So, there is someone. Mind telling us about her."

"Not a chance."

"Haha. Well ladies and gentlemen. That is it for tonight's episode of the Brandermill Review. Very sincere thanks to our guest, Simon Emerson, and we'll see you next week. I am Edward Howard, Singing off"

........................….

After the interview was over, Simon and Edward stood up from their seats and walked off the little stage towards one another. Simon was the first to start talking as soon as they got close enough to each other:

"That was a ruthless set of questions Ed. Not at all what how you said it would be."

Edward simply laughed as he spoke:

"Don't take it to heart Simon, I was just taking advantage of the fact that I had you in the spotlight. You're not an easy man to get an interview with."

Simon looked at this Edward who suddenly seemed very different from his serious demeanor during the interview and spoke with a sigh:

"I noticed recently that some people painted me as a villain of some sorts, I was advised to get ahead of the rumors before it got too out of hand."

"Makes sense, you're not as bad as I thought you would were if that's any consolation."

"I hope the people see it as so. Anyway, am going to head out Ed. Thanks for having me today."

"Don't mention it. I couldn't believe it when little Elaine said that you have agreed to an exclusive, you should tune in tonight for when the episode airs."

"I will. Anyway, I'll see you around."

Simon immediately shook hands with Edward and headed to a side exit of the studio which led to the parking lot. Simon immediately pulled his phone out of his pocket and dialed a number as he walked towards his car.

A few seconds later the call was answered, and a male's voice was heard. Simon immediately spoke with a serious look on his face:

"Hey Charles. How is everything going?"

"Oh Simon. It's going fine, I just got managed to finalize the takeover with that realtor company you suggested, but Silver said that their assets are not worth much compared to their competitors, I don't understand how this could be beneficial to us."

"I have it on good authority that the city council is about to launch a new initiative that makes the city much more financially welcoming to big companies, I want you to get ahead of that and acquire as much land as you can downtown be using the realtor company."

"Is this another one of your premonitions?"

"Have my premonitions ever failed to deliver?"

"I guess not. Well, it's done anyway, and we'll do as you say. Is there anything else you have in mind?"

"Can you look into acquiring a news station in the city or its vicinity. I am just starting to see the benefit and necessity of controlling public perception."

"You do know that sounds eerily villain-like? Do I have to remind you that we are not trying to take over this city Simon?"

Simon couldn't help but smile at the perceptiveness of this friend of his. If it weren't for his trusting and hopeful nature that always sees the best in people, he would have been a terrifying shark in the business world. Simon, however, preferred this innocent Charles, and they only needed one morally flexible person to get what he needed done.

"Stop overthinking things Charles, I just need a station to air behind the scenes for the club and act as a recruitment for the club and associated businesses."

By the time Simon was able to convince Charles that he wasn't up to anything nefarious, he was already in his Aston Martin and rushing downtown for another meeting with the mayor. Simon never really liked that old politicians because he always felt on guard around him as if he might be sold something without consent.

However, Simon knew that wealth wields a certain amount of influence, and influence was something that he never had in his old life. But since he had both wealth and influence in this life, Simon was not going to be shy about leveraging it to his gain. And as far as Simon was concerned, there was no better or deserving target to influence than a politician.

The thing that Simon needed from the city council and by extension the mayor was some form of decrease in city taxes. Naturally, he knew that separating a politician from his unearned money was not easy, but that wouldn't be the case over the coming few months.

The last year has seen an increasing sentiment across England for the election of mayors with numerous cities adapting the system instead of the old appointment-based system, and it just so happens that Brandermill will be adapting this in January.

And as well intentioned as the idea was since it promotes accountability and democracy, it also opens the door to third party influence. Simon's goal in this venture was to limit the repetition of what happened in his last life where the current mayor was duly defeated and replaced by a very much pro-business mayor who oversaw the complete gentrification of the city.

Simon was not naïve enough to believe that he and his little bit of wealth could withstand the efforts of multi-billion-dollar industries without the aid of the city council. He also knew that this was a very good opportunity for him to solidify his influence while gaining some benefits, after all, he was not a saint.

Now that the club was mounting an unprecedented campaign where they have only lost 4 games with half of the season gone, his influence was perhaps at its highest. He had to capitalize on this before the big boys arrive.


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