New CEO. The Car Whisperer

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Nancy Heslin   Forbes Monaco

Salim Zeghbar

Salim Zeghdar brings the supercar back to Top Marques.

The Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters came and went in April with two monumental distinctions. Eleven-time tournament winner Raphael Nadal was eliminated in the semi-finals, and there was no excessive traffic (no more so than the 110,000 cars on the roads daily) or revving engines from joy riders in town for Top Marques at the Grimaldi Forum. Things have changed for the World’s Most Exclusive Auto Show with a new CEO in the driver’s seat.

IT’S NO SECRET that the future of Top Marques was in a deadlock following last year’s show, with the government cracking down on noise and
other incivilities that led to 300 drivers being fined. And then there was the legal battle between the three shareholders.

On August 3, 2018, it was announced that Salim Zeghdar, with full backing from the Prince’s government, would become the new CEO of Top
Marques, with a promise to bring the pinnacle car show back to its roots. The location at the Grimaldi Forum is unchanged but the event, under
the High Patronage of Prince Albert, will now take place after the Grand Prix, this year from May 30 to June 3.

Forget the test drives. Forget extreme and outrageous. Forget the cruise ships and vodka. Zeghdar is creating a 100% indoor show (tickets €70 Thursday and Friday or €40 on the weekend; VIP tickets €120/day) with the spotlight on supercars, and for the first time ever there will be an invitation-only Exceptional Private Opening. Even the Top Marques Ambassadors Eddie Jordan, David Coulthard and Thierry Boutsen are former Formula 1 drivers. “I never see problems, only solutions. It’s best not to over think a situation,” the Monacoborn businessman says. “We
have been rebuilding Top Marques step by step and I am not alone, we are a team.”

The modest yet confident Zeghdar studied business in Bordeaux for six years and returned to Monaco in 1996 to become director general of
Monacair. The following year, he started a travel agency and in 2006, he launched Monaco Check in, a one-stop travel website that provides airline, hotel and transportation bookings for visitors coming to Monaco for business events.

He’s also the man behind Riviera Fine Delight, an established catering company and yacht provisioner based on the French Riviera, and
Monaco Live Productions. In total, he has 40 people working for him. “I like to keep busy,” he says.

With a philosophy of “work serious to be serious,” 48-year-old Zeghdar is a rare breed. A family man who occasionally takes his vintage
Mustang for a spin, he also has his pilot’s license. But his passion is horses, and not just riding. Zeghdar studied equine psychology and, much
like the horse whisperer, adopts a sympathetic view of the motives and needs of the horse, so applies this technique to his business management. “I want to learn everything and it’s better to learn an employee’s job first hand so you can better understand and help them.”

This year’s 16th edition of Top Marques will bring together 60 to 70 worldwide manufacturers, including iconic brands Aston Martin, McLaren, Ferrari, Bugatti, Bentley, Porsche and Lamborghini, with the goal “to make each exhibitor happy.”

The combined value of the cars exceeds €50 million. “This is not an exhibition, it’s a niche market for people ready to buy and sell exceptional cars. And with this new vision, we have a new bank sponsoring the event, Barclays Monaco.”

There is still the pizzazz of petrol to appeal to the supercar enthusiasts—an avant-premiere of McLaren’s hotly anticipated Grand Tourer; the first street-legal F1 car, the Zacaria, can be scooped up for a tidy €1 million; and the Ferox six-wheel vehicle ready to roll on Mars will premier—but new technologies, in line with Monaco’s sustainable development objectives, will also be showcased: the Audi e-tron and the Italian hybrid Puritalia Berlinetta. The Quantino 48Volt, innovative supercar powered by salt water looks to make a splash also.

Since the first Grand Prix raced through the streets of the Principality in 1911, cars have been a part of the country’s DNA. And for Salim Zeghdar, Top Marques will link the classic cars of yesteryear to the concept car of the future under one roof. It’s all about cars and a new start.


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Nancy Heslin   Forbes Monaco

Nancy Heslin is an established journalist and lifestyle writer. She has been the Editor-in-Chief of Forbes Monaco magazine (bimonthly in English) , since the magazine's 2nd issue . Launched in November 2018, Forbes Monaco is part of the Forbes family, with its 7 million readers and 71 million monthly website visitors worldwide.