NEW YORK: Lance Armstrong’s prospects looked bleak when he admitted to Oprah Winfrey in 2013 that he cheated to win his Tour de France titles, putting the brakes on a career that made him more than US$200 million and deepening his legal troubles.
An investment in a venture capital fund that bought into Uber Technologies Inc. has proved to be a lifeline for the disgraced cyclist. The 47-year-old told CNBC on Thursday that the investment had been “too good to be true,” and “saved our family.”
The interview sparked reports that Armstrong could be sitting on a 10-figure stake in the startup.
The reality is more peloton than breakaway.
His US$100,000 investment has made him about US$20 million, according to calculations by Bloomberg.
Armstrong in 2009 invested US$100,000 in Chris Sacca’s newly started Lowercase Capital, CNBC reported. One of the firm’s bets was on the ride-hailing startup that was then valued at US$3.7 million.
Uber’s value has soared. It filed paperwork confidentially this week for what could be one of the five biggest initial public offerings ever. Bankers have told the San Francisco-based company that it could be worth US$120 billion on the public markets, people familiar with the matter have previously said.
The Lowercase fund has returned between 250 times and 300 times, according to a person familiar with its performance. That means Armstrong’s investment would be worth as much as US$30 million at the top of that range. After deducting for fees, he’s probably cleared about US$20 million.
“I invested in Chris Sacca,” Armstrong said in the interview. “I didn’t even know he did Uber.”
An Armstrong representative didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. An Uber spokesman declined to comment.
Armstrong, who set records by winning the Tour de France each year from 1999 to 2005, was stripped of the titles in August 2012. He admitted in a January 2013 television interview with Winfrey that he’d used a “cocktail” of testosterone, erythropoietin and blood transfusions throughout his career.