Mo Farah, his VERY ambitious wife and the dash for cash that risks tarnishing an Olympic hero

All things being equal, by the time he reaches Tower Bridge during the forthcoming London Marathon, Mo Farah will have long since left in his wake the race’s fancy dress pantomime horses and giant chickens.

Then, after taking in the applause from the cheering crowd at the halfway point of the iconic sporting event, Farah — its most celebrated and recognisable competitor — will simply stop.

He will not be required to take another step in order to pick up the £250,000 cheque the race’s sponsors, Virgin, will give him for completing just 13.1 miles of the famous 26.2-mile course.

All of which might seem like something of a kick in the teeth to the 35,000-plus other participants struggling past the finish line on April 21.

But, then, double-Olympic champion Mo, who will be running a competitive marathon for the first time, is such a draw that the race organisers are prepared to bend over backwards — and bend the rules — in order for him to take part.

Indeed, they have promised him — and the American moneymen who have just taken over the reins of ‘Brand Mo’ — a further £500,000 when he runs the full distance of the marathon in 2014, pushing his post-Olympic earnings to £3.75 million.

Such dizzying sums are the tip of the iceberg. Two weeks ago, Team GB hero Mo and his ambitious wife Tania — who helps oversee his career — quietly agreed a deal with Connecticut-based global sports management firm Octagon that, it is hoped, will propel him into the big league.

Mo is just as much a brand as Virgin,’ Octagon’s UK vice-president Clifford Bloxham told me this week. ‘And we have to build that brand.
‘When it comes to the big deals in British sport, Mo can be doing those deals. He is going to be able to compete with Lewis Hamilton, Andy Murray and top footballers. He deserves to get his share of those opportunities.’

Already, big money sponsorships with the likes of French fashion house Louis Vuitton and South Korean car maker Hyundai are being discussed.

Conservative estimates forecast that Mo, who was brought up in poverty in war-torn Somalia before moving to Britain at the age of eight, could make up to £10 million over the next two years.

Suddenly, Farah, who won the nation’s hearts with his stunning gold medal achievements in the 5,000 and 10,000 metres at London 2012 and his trademark ‘Mobot’ celebration, is realising his full commercial worth.

Sadly, however, it seems even the ‘Mobot’, which involves arching the hands over the head to create a letter ‘M’ — and which was recreated with such innocent glee in the nation’s school playgrounds in the wake of his victories — has a price.
The runner’s aides told me this week that his long-time manager Ricky Simms, who also looks after the career of Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt, has applied to trademark it.

Of course, while no one would begrudge the likeable 29-year-old his chance to reap the financial rewards of his hard work, there are concerns in athletics that by so assiduously chasing the riches on offer to him, he could be jeopardising his career as a runner. Indeed, his insistence he will complete only half of the London Marathon has led to bemusement among his peers.

This week, Paula Radcliffe described the move as ‘a little bit strange’ and Steve Cram called it ‘difficult to comprehend’. I am told behind the scenes in the close-knit world of athletics that there is, among some, unbridled fury over the plan.

It’s pure showboating and has nothing to do with the long-held spirit of the marathon,’ one senior figure told me. ‘Some of the elite athletes will be spitting tacks.
‘Because he has to run only half the race, Mo could decide to go for broke, hit the front and run an incredible time. Then he’ll just stop, and no doubt be treated as a winner by the crowd.
‘In effect, you’ll end up with two winners and it detracts from the man who makes the supreme effort to finish the allotted course and come in first.’

Yet the lure of cold, hard cash seems to be too hard to resist. His close advisers, who include Tania — his wife of three years, who also acts as his media consultant — are insistent that Mo’s transition from track to marathon running, with its bigger appearance fees, will increase his scope for sponsorship earnings exponentially.

Crucially, it will also give Farah access to the lucrative U.S. market.

Last weekend, Mo, who moved to Portland, Oregon, with his family in 2011, ran in the Rock ’n’ Roll half-marathon in New Orleans.
Interviewing him after the race, a local TV reporter made the cringeworthy mistake of asking Mo if he’d ever run before. Too polite to mention his Olympic gold medals and the fact he is the reigning World and European 5,000 metres champion, Mo didn’t let the journalist know her mistake.

Yet his Stateside advisers are planning to raise his profile in the U.S. by playing down his Britishness and talking up the ‘inspirational story’ of his impoverished African background. ‘Running marathons in New York will increase his profile in the States,’ said Bloxham, whose company generates more than £2.6 billion for international sports stars including swimmer Michael Phelps and Formula One driver Mark Webber.

‘What’s interesting is that he’s come from Africa and overcome a hard start. Mo’s a star and I think he needs to be conscious of his brand and how he’s seen.’

Some in British athletics fear Mo may be spreading himself too thinly, and point to the fact Octagon also oversaw the career of the under-achieving Russian tennis starlet Anna Kournikova, whose sporting potential went unfulfilled despite her endless money-making sponsorship commitments.

But Farah is undeniably hot property — and his rags-to-riches background is not the only media-friendly aspect of his life on which his advisers hope to cash in.
They plan to profit from his family man image, after Tania — who met the runner while they were at comprehensive school in Feltham, Middlesex — gave birth to twin girls, Aisha and Amani, at the end of August (she has a daughter Rihanna, seven, from a previous relationship).

Already, 26-year-old Tania has negotiated a six-figure deal with Hello! magazine, in which the babies were paraded before the camera for the first time.

Bizarrely, the plan had been that the couple would not even reveal the girls’ names until the release of the runner’s autobiography.
The idea was dropped once Hello! opened its chequebook, but led to a farcical — and embarrassing — situation when Mo demurred from telling journalists the babies’ names at a press conference after the birth, saying they’d have to wait for his memoirs. The normally affable Farah has also been unusually tight-lipped about some of the more problematic aspects of his life — notably his apparently strained relationship with the family he left behind in Africa.

His father, Muktar, fled Somalia with Mo — short for Mohamed — and two of their six children, leaving behind his wife, Amran, and the rest of the children, including Mo’s twin brother Hassan, also a gifted runner.

Understandably, Mo has been even less keen to discuss his half-brother Omar — by his father’s second marriage — whose existence he had kept secret until last month.

Omar, 20, has been in and out of trouble with the police and spent a month behind bars at Feltham Young Offenders Institution after being charged with using or threatening violence during the London riots in the summer of 2011.
The charges were eventually dropped. However, hoodie-wearing Omar, who admits to regularly smoking cannabis, but denies being a drug dealer, found himself homeless on his release and was forced to live in a hostel.
Understandably, perhaps, the subject of his colourful clan is something of a sore point for the clean-living Mo, who launched his own foundation two years ago to help starving children in East Africa.

Alan Watkinson, his former PE teacher and best man at his wedding to Tania in 2010, says of Farah’s relationship with his family: ‘He doesn’t really have a lot to do with them. I’ve never got to the bottom of it because he’s very private.
‘I think he was expected to immerse himself within [the Somali] community, but Mo found that impossible to reconcile. So they drifted apart, but there’s no animosity.’

Indeed, oddly, Tania’s parents, Robert and Nadia Nell, say they have never met their son-in-law’s nearest and dearest.

Despite such domestic difficulties, the money continues to roll in. I understand that Mo’s main sponsor-ship contracts with Nike, Lucozade, Bupa and Holiday Inn are all up for renegotiation.

His Olympic success and household name status mean he is in a position to demand ever more big-money deals to act as brand ambassador to a growing number of firms, including Virgin Media, which signed him up for a high-profile ad campaign after the Games.

Helping to pull strings in the background is Tania. The family live in a large four-bedroom house near the Nike Oregon Project which is run by Farah’s maverick Cuban-born coach Alberto Salazar.

For months at a time, Mo also trains at altitude in Kenya. All of which exacts a toll on his home life. This week, on a rare return to Britain, he tweeted fans he had not seen his baby daughters for nearly two months.
But Bloxham says: ‘We’ll be looking at family brands for Mo because he’s a dad, like a supermarket or a holiday destination. He would be great for a family car brand with his endurance and long-running reliability.

‘We’re going to clients and saying: “Have you thought that Mo spends eight months of the year travelling?” This is how one could use him, for Louis Vuitton, for example. People think of him as a runner, rather than the international traveller that he is.
‘But anything Mo does commercially must add value to him as a person.’

A noble sentiment. And while this charming and brilliantly talented man is earning his well-deserved fortune, let’s hope the businessmen managing him don’t jeopardise what the much-loved Mo does best — running.

Concern-Trolling at its finest right here

with cut

Daily Mail