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Flavio Briatore at the 2006 Bahrain Grand Prix.

Flavio Briatore (born 12 April 1950) is an Italian businessman. He was manager or principal of two Formula One racing teams, most recently with Renault F1 . He was also part-owner and chairman of London's Queens Park Rangers F.C. from 2007 to 2010. On 16 September 2009, Briatore was forced to resign from the ING Renault F1 team due to his involvement in race fixing at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix. After the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) conducted its own investigation, Briatore was banned indefinitely from any events sanctioned by the FIA, although this ban was later overturned by the French Tribunal de Grande Instance.

Contents

Early life and Benetton career

Briatore was born in Verzuolo near Cuneo, Italy, in the Maritime Alps, to a family of elementary school teachers. After being flunked out for two times from the public school (state school), he had to go to a private school (independent school) to get a diploma with the lowest grades in Land Surveying at Fassino di Busca high school.[1] Briatore found early work as a ski instructor and restaurant manager. He opened a restaurant named Tribüla, which was Briatore's nickname. The restaurant was unsuccessful and went bankrupt.

Then he worked as door-to-door assurance policies salesman. In the 1970s, he moved to Cuneo and became an assistant to businessman Attilio Dutto, owner of the Paramatti Vernici paint company (formerly owned by Michele Sindona). Dutto was killed on 21 March 1979 in a car bomb attack by an unknown perpetrator.[2] From then on, Briatore started his business career.

Briatore moved to Milan and worked in the Italian stock exchange. During this period, he met Luciano Benetton, founder of the Benetton clothing company.

Briatore was sentenced for gambling-motivated fraud, cheating and swindle by fake playing cards [1][3] Briatore was also involved in the bankruptcy of Paramatti, and eventually convicted on various counts of fraud in Bergamo and Milan and sentenced to 4 years and 6 months in prison.[4] To avoid imprisonment, he fled to Saint Thomas,Virgin Islands. He never went to prison and he came back to Italy only thanks to an act of oblivion[5][6] In spite of his fugitiveness, he kept close relations with Benetton and opened some Benetton stores in the Virgin Islands. When Benetton opened his first five stores in the United States in 1979, he appointed Briatore as director of the group's American operations. Thanks to Benetton's methods of franchising, the chain experienced a brief boom in popularity in the US where, by 1989, there were eight hundred Benetton stores. Briatore, having taken a cut of each franchising agreement, became very wealthy. As store owners began to complain of competition from other Benetton stores, the number of stores decreased to two hundred and Briatore began to look for a new business.[7]

Formula One

Benetton Formula

Briatore attended his first Formula One race, the Australian Grand Prix, in 1988, having in the past proclaimed his lack of interest in the sport. Luciano Benetton appointed him commercial director of his Formula One team, Benetton Formula Ltd. (formerly Toleman), and when he fired the team management shortly thereafter, Briatore was promoted to managing director and set about turning Benetton into a competitive team.

He hired and quickly fired engineer John Barnard. Barnard's successor was Tom Walkinshaw, whose greatest achievement with the team was to lure young driver Michael Schumacher from the Jordan team after his first F1 race in 1991. Briatore, too, contributed to this achievement. The Times observed that Briatore knew Schumacher could be the best and built a team around him at Benetton[8] that eventually beat the Williams driver Damon Hill to the World Championship after Ayrton Senna was killed at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.

Schumacher went on to win at Spa in 1992 and again at Estoril in 1993 before claiming the World Drivers' Championship in 1994 and 1995. The Benetton team won the World Constructors' Championship in 1995.

During the 1994 season, Briatore's Benneton team came under allegations of cheating, resulting in fines and a two-race ban for Schumacher.

Late in 1994, Briatore purchased the ailing Ligier team to acquire its stock of Renault engines. FIA regulations, however, did not permit him to own the team, so he sold it to Walkinshaw. He took on complete management of Benetton, but when Schumacher and a number of key technical staffers departed for Ferrari in 1996, the team slipped to the middle of the grid.

Briatore purchased a share of the Minardi team in 1996, but being unable to sell it to British American Tobacco, as he had hoped, he sold out to fellow owners Giancarlo Minardi and Gabriele Rumi. Benetton fired him in 1997 in favour of David Richards.

From 1998 to 2000, he led Renault's motorsport sister company Mecachrome, which provided older 1997 Renault engines to the Williams (1998–1999), Benetton (1998–2000), BAR (1999) and Arrows (2000) teams under the brand names Mecachrome (1998), Supertec (1999–2000) and Playlife (for Benetton 1998-2000).[7]

Renault F1

In 2000, Renault announced its plans to return to Formula One with the purchase of the Benetton Formula team. Briatore returned as managing director and team principal, replacing Rocco Benetton. The team raced as Benetton-Renault in 2001 before becoming Renault F1 in 2002.

Briatore has a reputation as a talent-scout, and probably his greatest 'find' has been Fernando Alonso. Briatore met with the teenage Spaniard in 1999. As his manager, Briatore secured him a race drive with Minardi in 2001, and promoted him to test-driver for Renault in 2002.[7]

For 2003, Briatore fired race-driver Jenson Button and replaced him with Alonso. When he replaced Button the outcry was huge, but Briatore stated, 'Time will tell if I am wrong.'[9]

With Alonso, Renault won both the driver's and constructor's championships in 2005 and 2006. However, Alonso turned his back on Briatore to sign for rivals McLaren for 2007.[7]

Briatore also acts as manager for Mark Webber and Heikki Kovalainen, and formerly managed Jarno Trulli and Nelson Piquet, Jr. Despite winning the 2004 Monaco Grand Prix, Trulli was dropped from Renault by Briatore and replaced by Giancarlo Fisichella.[7]

In April 2006, Renault F1's new president Alain Dassas stated that having a contract with Briatore for 2007 was 'a key factor' in securing the company's commitment to the sport; 'and we will do everything to ensure Flavio stays.' [10] Briatore was duly confirmed as staying at Renault for the 2007 and 2008 seasons on 6 September 2006.[11]

Briatore replaced Alonso with Kovalainen for 2007, saying: "With Kovalainen, I hope to find the anti-Alonso".[12]

Allegations were made during November 2007 by the FIA against the Renault F1 team regarding information they were found to have in their possession concerning the 2006 and 2007 McLaren F1 cars. These allegations were the subject of an FIA investigation, with an FIA hearing taking place 6 December 2007. Renault were found guilty of breaching the same regulation as McLaren (see F1 espionage scandal), but were not punished. Despite this guilty verdict, Briatore hit back at McLaren's Ron Dennis, saying: "Here is a team that acquired an advantage illegally. Just read the regulations: for intellectual property theft the punishment is exclusion... Ron Dennis… was the one who protested us on the mass damper. He is not the immaculate saint he pretends to be on his statements." [13]

In August 2009, Briatore was heavily criticised by Nelson Piquet, Jr. after he was sacked from the Renault team. Writing on his own site, Piquet said "A manager is supposed to encourage you, support you, and provide you with opportunities. In my case it was the opposite. Flavio Briatore was my executioner." [14]

In an interview with Autosport magazine, Piquet Jr. said that Briatore "is ignorant about Formula 1” and revealed that “If you listen to the pit-wall radio, it's like a joke. He hasn't got a clue what is happening in the race… he makes comments that don't make any sense.”

The son of the three times F1 champion Nelson Piquet affirmed "everyone knows that his (Briatore) ego is bigger than anything else. He likes to show off. You can be a very good businessman and whatever, but the F1 team itself can do very well without him. The only good thing the team takes out of him is his good relationship with Bernie Ecclestone and the FIA. Other than that, he doesn't know what is going on. It's like listening to something my sister would say about the car." [15]

Departure

Briatore was forced to resign as team principal of Renault due to a race fixing scandal.[16] The controversy centered around an early crash involving Renault driver Nelson Piquet, Jr.'s car during the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix of 28 September 2008. At the time, Piquet Jr. described the crash as a simple mistake, however, shortly after his acrimonious departure from Renault and criticism of Briatore nearly a year later in August 2009, allegations surfaced that Piquet Jr. had deliberately crashed to help Renault team mate Fernando Alonso, who went on to win the race. After a Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) investigation, on 4 September 2009 Renault were charged with conspiracy and race fixing, and were due to face the FIA World Motor Sport Council in Paris on 21 September 2009. In return for immunity from punishment, Piquet Jr. had reportedly stated to the FIA that he had been asked to crash by Briatore and Renault chief engineer Pat Symonds. On 11 September, following leaks of Piquet Jr.'s evidence, Renault and Briatore stated they would take legal action against Piquet, Jr. for making false allegations, however, five days later, Renault announced they would not contest the charges, and that Briatore and Symonds had left the team.[17][18] The day after the Renault announcement, Renault confirmed Briatore had resigned from the team, while Briatore himself stated of his departure that "I was just trying to save the team", "It's my duty. That's the reason I've finished."[19][20] A statement released said:

The ING Renault F1 Team will not dispute the recent allegations made by the FIA concerning the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix. It also wishes to state that its managing director, Flavio Briatore and its executive director of engineering, Pat Symonds, have left the team.[21]

At the same hearing, the FIA banned Briatore from FIA-sanctioned events indefinitely. Briatore is not permitted to attend FIA events even as a spectator. It also stated that it would not renew any superlicence granted to Briatore-managed drivers—effectively barring him from managing drivers who participate in any competition that is under the FIA's authority. The FIA came down hard on Briatore because he denied his involvement despite overwhelming evidence. The FIA stated that Renault's actions were serious enough to merit being thrown out of F1. However, since Renault took swift action by forcing Briatore and Symonds to resign once the affair came to light, the FIA effectively placed the team on two years' probation. If Renault commits a comparable offense between 2009 and 2011, they will be indefinitely banned from F1.[22] British newspaper The Daily Mirror described the ban as the harshest sanction ever imposed on an individual in the history of motorsport.[23]

Briatore later said he was "distraught" by FIA's action, and sued the FIA in French courts in order to clear his name.[24] On January 5, 2010, the Tribunal de Grande Instance overturned the ban, and granted him €15,000 in compensation.[25] However the FIA announced that they would appeal the decision issued by the French Courts.[26]

Briatore has stated in an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport that he is sure that he will not return to Formula One, despite having his ban overturned.[27]

Stance on the future of F1

Briatore has always spoken out about his desires to see F1 provide better entertainment. In 1994 he said: "All the team owners are orientated [sic] towards the technical side rather than the entertainment side, and this is a big fault. Every meeting that I go to, people are talking about pistons and suspensions. Nobody goes to a race to see that kind of thing… People come to see Schumacher and Senna racing each other."[7]

Twelve years later his feelings were much the same: "The people in charge should be businessmen, as they are in Hollywood, not ex-engineers. Nothing costs more, and delivers less entertainment, than hidden technology. And that’s what engineers love most of all."[28]

In 2007 he even went so far as to suggest that Grands Prix be split into two separate races as in the GP2 series.[29]

Business Interests

Briatore has developed a diverse portfolio of business interests outside Formula 1, many of which revolve around fashion.

He created the Billionaire brand in 1998 and owns a club in Sardinia under that name. A line of Billionaire fashion and sportswear is available as well as a haute couture line, Billionaire Italian Couture. In addition to that he opened Cipriani's restaurant in Mayfair, London in 2004 and owned until 2007 48.9% of the pharmaceuticals company Pierrel. He also operates a Tuscan beach club and Lion in the Sun, a holiday resort in Kenya.[7]

He purchased the super yacht Force Blue from Home Shopping Network investor Roy Speer for £68.2m.[30] She was given a refitted interior designed by Celeste dell`Anna, and given a blue exterior.

In 2007 he was linked to a takeover of English Championship Club, Queens Park Rangers, from a Monaco based consortium led by Gianni Paladini.[31][32] On 1 September 2007 it was officially announced that Briatore (along with Bernie Ecclestone) had bought Queens Park Rangers (QPR) Football Club.[33]

Queens Park Rangers Football Club

On 7 November 2007, Briatore completed his takeover of Queens Park Rangers together with Bernie Ecclestone. He serves as the club's chairman.

In December 2007, Briatore and Ecclestone were joined as co-owners of QPR by multi-billionaire Lakshmi Mittal, the 4th richest person in the world, who bought 20% of the club [1]

Following Briatore's ban from FIA, the Football League requested that FIA provide details of its investigation. The Football League could force Briatore out of QPR under rules that stipulate a club owner must be a "fit and proper person." The Football League also has the power to ban owners who have been banned from another sporting organisation.[34] The Football League board discussed the matter on 8 October 2009 and declared that they would be awaiting a response from Briatore to various questions before commenting further. It was announced that he has stepped down from the post on the 19th February 2010.

Personal life

Briatore has been identified as the father of Heidi Klum's daughter Helene (known as Leni). According to Klum, Briatore is not involved in the child's life.[35] 58-year-old Briatore married the 28-year-old 'Wonderbra' model Elisabetta Gregoraci, on 14 June 2008. The driver of the bridal car was Fernando Alonso. After the ceremony, Alonso drove the newlyweds to the reception at the Castello di Torcrescenza in Rome.[36]. The couple has a son, Falco Nathan, born on 18 march 2010.

References

  1. ^ a b http://www.repubblica.it/2005/j/formulauno/flabriato/flabriato/flabriato.html Flavio Briatore si racconta – La Repubblica
  2. ^ Williams, Richard. "Flavio Briatore undone by the charisma that powered his rise". guardian.co.uk. http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/blog/2009/sep/17/flavio-briatore-renault-formula-one. Retrieved 2009-12-11. 
  3. ^ http://archiviostorico.corriere.it/1999/agosto/27/Arrestato_Briatore_giallo_Kenia_co_0_9908271930.shtml Arrestato Briatore, Corriere della Sera
  4. ^ http://www.romaexplorer.it/divertimento-online/gossip_celebrita/gossip_news/flavio_briatore.htm FLAVIO BRIATORE: BIOGRAFIA - Roma Explorer
  5. ^ Arrestato Briatore, Corriere della Sera
  6. ^ G. Barbacetto, Briatore. Finito contro un muro, in Il Fatto Quotidiano del 27 settembre 2009, p. 14.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g "Who's Who: Flavio Briatore". F1Fanatic.co.uk. 2007. http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/f1-information/whos-who/whos-who-b/flavio-briatore/. Retrieved 2007-08-18. 
  8. ^ Alonso making life cheap and cheerful for his paymaster - Sport - Times Online
  9. ^ Eason, Kevin (2005-09-09). "Alonso making life cheap and cheerful for his paymaster". The Times (London: News International). http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,5923-1771854,00.html. Retrieved 2006-11-01. 
  10. ^ F1 | Formula 1 - Renault: We must keep Briatore - ITV Sport
  11. ^ F1 News > Renault re-aligns aspirations
  12. ^ "F1's biggest bombshells". F1Fanatic.co.uk. 2006. http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/2006/12/19/f1%e2%80%99s-biggest-bombshells/. Retrieved 2007-08-18. 
  13. ^ "Briatore: 'Throw McLaren out'". F1Fanatic.co.uk. 2007. http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/2007/08/04/briatore-throw-mclaren-out/. Retrieved 2007-08-18. 
  14. ^ http://www.npiquet.com/news.asp?NewsID=336
  15. ^ Piquet: Briatore is ignorant about F1. Autosport, by Jonathan Noble and Edd Straw, 2009-08-13
  16. ^ "Flavio Briatore sensationally quits Formula One over race-fixing scandal". The Daily Mail. 2009-09-16. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1213910/Flavio-Briatore-sensationally-quits-Formula-One-race-fixing-scandal.html. Retrieved 2009-09-21. 
  17. ^ "Q and A: why Renault face race-fixing allegations and other questions". The Telegraph. 2009-09-17. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/motorsport/formulaone/renault/6199480/Q-and-A-why-Renault-face-race-fixing-allegations-and-other-questions.html. Retrieved 2009-09-17. 
  18. ^ "Renault blames Briatore & Symonds". BBC Sport. 2009-09-17. http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/motorsport/formula_one/8261004.stm. Retrieved 2009-09-17. 
  19. ^ "Renault chief admits 'Crashgate' has damaged company". London: The Times. 2009-09-17. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/formula_1/article6838334.ece. Retrieved 2009-09-17. 
  20. ^ "Briatore: I did it for Renault". Sky Sports. 2009-09-17. http://www.skysports.com/story/0,19528,12433_5565218,00.html. Retrieved 2009-09-17. 
  21. ^ Renault F1 statement, 16 September 2009"ING Renault F1 Team Statement – 16 September 2009". ING Renault F1. 2009-09-16. http://www.ing-renaultf1.com/en/_2009/team/index.php#/team/newsdesk/communiques/. 
  22. ^ Noble, Jonathan (2009-09-21). "Renault given two-year suspended ban". Autosport.com. http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/78770. Retrieved 2009-09-21. 
  23. ^ Young, Byron (2009-09-21). "Renault owner Flavio Briatore slapped with lifetime F1 ban". The Daily Mirror. http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/top-stories/2009/09/21/crashgate-renault-owner-flavio-briatore-slapped-with-lifetime-f1-ban-115875-21690293/. Retrieved 2009-09-21. 
  24. ^ "Flavio Briatore left 'distraught' by Formula One lifetime ban". The Guardian. 2009-09-22. http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2009/sep/22/flavio-briatore-f1-ban. Retrieved 2009-09-25. 
  25. ^ Noble, Jonathan (2010-01-05). "Court overturns Briatore's F1 ban". autosport.com (Haymarket Publications). http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/80743. Retrieved 2010=01=05. 
  26. ^ http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/motorsport/formula_one/8452410.stm|FIA to appeal Briatore decsision
  27. ^ Lostia, Michele; Elizalde, Pablo (2010-03-12). "Briatore rules out returning to F1". autosport.com (Haymarket Publications). http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/82014. Retrieved 2010-03-19. 
  28. ^ "F1 2006 review: In their own words". F1Fanatic.co.uk. 2006. http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/2006/10/28/f1-2006-review-in-their-own-words/. Retrieved 2007-08-18. 
  29. ^ "Debate: Are F1 races too long?". F1Fanatic.co.uk. 2007. http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/2007/05/02/debate-are-f1-races-too-long/. Retrieved 2007-08-18. 
  30. ^ "La Dolce Vita: What really drives Flavio Briatore?". The Independent. 2008-09-23. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/profiles/la-dolce-vita-what-really-drives-flavio-briatore-938708.html. Retrieved 2009-05-21. 
  31. ^ QPR REPORT: QPR-Flavior Briatore Takeover Update
  32. ^ Jacob, Gary; Gorman, Edward (2007-08-30). "Ecclestone chooses QPR over Arsenal". The Times (London). http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/football/football_league/article2351331.ece. Retrieved 2009-09-22. 
  33. ^ Queens Park Rangers Football Club (2007-09-03). "CLUB STATEMENT". Press release. http://www.qpr.premiumtv.co.uk/page/NewsDetail/0,,10373~1103536,00.html. Retrieved 2009-09-22. 
  34. ^ http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/football/football_league/article6843329.ece
  35. ^ William Keck (2007-12-03). "Celeb Watch: Heidi Klum relishes her model family life". USA Today. http://www.usatoday.com/life/people/celebwatch/2007-12-09-heidi-klum_N.htm. Retrieved 2007-12-04. 
  36. ^ "Briatore finally ties the knot". autosport.com. 2008-06-16. http://www.autosport.com/news/grapevine.php/id/68366. Retrieved 2008-06-19. 

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