Flavio Briatore

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Flavio Briatore
Briatore in 2009
Born (1950-04-12) 12 April 1950 (age 73)
Verzuolo, Italy
(m. 2008; sep. 2017)

Flavio Briatore (Italian: [ˈflaːvjo bri.aˈtoːre]; born 12 April 1950) is an Italian businessman. He started his career as a restaurant manager and insurance salesman in Italy. Briatore was convicted in Italy on several fraud charges in the 1980s, receiving two prison sentences, though the convictions were later extinguished by an amnesty. Briatore set up a number of successful Benetton franchises as a fugitive in the Virgin Islands and the United States. In 1990, he was promoted by Luciano Benetton to manage the Benetton Formula One racing team, which became Renault F1 in 2002. From 2007 to 2011, he was part-owner and chairman of London's Queens Park Rangers F.C. In 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 a French Tribunal de Grande Instance.

Early life and Benetton career[edit]

Briatore was born in Verzuolo near Cuneo in the Maritime Alps to a family of elementary school teachers. After twice failing public (state) school, he attended a private (independent) school, receiving 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[2] and had to close due to excessive debt.[3]

In the 1970s, he moved to Cuneo and became an assistant to businessman Attilio Dutto, owner of the Paramatti Vernici paint company. Dutto was killed on 21 March 1979 in a car bomb attack by an unknown perpetrator.[4]

Briatore moved to Milan and worked for Finanziaria Generale Italia at the Italian stock exchange.[5] During this period, he met Luciano Benetton, founder of the Benetton clothing company.

Convictions and fugitive status[edit]

Briatore was convicted of multiple counts of fraud in the 1980s, receiving two prison sentences.[1][6][7][8] In 1984, a court in Bergamo found him guilty of various counts of fraud and he was fined and sentenced to one year and six months in prison.[6] The sentence was subsequently reduced to one year by a court of appeal in 1988.[9] In 1986, in Milan, Briatore was sentenced to three years for fraud and conspiracy for his role in a team of confidence tricksters who, over a number of years, set up rigged gambling games using fake playing cards. The judges described these as elaborate confidence tricks, in which victims were invited to dinner and then "ensnared" in rigged games that involved a cast of fictional characters and realised enormous profits for their perpetrators.[10] After an appeal in 1987, the sentence was reduced to one year and two months.[11] To avoid imprisonment, Briatore lived as a fugitive in Saint Thomas, Virgin Islands.[12] He never went to prison and returned to the EU after both convictions were extinguished by amnesty.[13][14] In 2010, a Turin court ordered Briatore rehabilitated, which by Italian Criminal Code results in the extinction "of any criminal effect of the conviction".[15]

During Briatore's fugitive status, he maintained 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 800 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 200 and Briatore began to look for a new business.[16] In 1999, the Corriere della Sera wrongfully reported that he had been arrested in Nairobi on suspicion of fraud relating to real estate in Kenya, but further to a libel claim brought by Briatore against the newspaper, this allegation proved to be untrue and Briatore was compensated.[8]

Formula One[edit]

Benetton Formula[edit]

Briatore (right) with Tom Walkinshaw at the 1993 British Grand Prix

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 and lured young driver Michael Schumacher from the Jordan team after his first F1 race in 1991. The Times observed that Briatore knew Schumacher could be the best and built a team around him at Benetton[17] 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.

In 1994 Briatore rejected Umberto Agnelli's proposal to move to Ferrari.[18]

During the 1994 season, Briatore's Benetton 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 thereby acquiring its Renault engine supply. He passed operational management of Ligier to Tom Walkinshaw and took on complete management of Benetton. When Schumacher and a number of key technical staffers departed for Ferrari in 1996, the Benetton team slipped to the middle of the grid.

Briatore purchased a share of the Minardi team in 1996, but after failing to sell it to British American Tobacco as he had hoped, he sold out to fellow owners Giancarlo Minardi and Gabriele Rumi. In 1997, Benetton replaced Briatore with David Richards.[5]

From 1998 to 2000, he led the company Supertec, supplying Mecachrome-built Renault engines to Williams and BAR in 1999, Arrows in 2000, and under the brand name "Playlife" for Benetton in both 1999 and 2000.[16]

Renault F1[edit]

Briatore in 2008

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.[16]

In 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".[19]

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.[16]

Briatore also acted as manager for Mark Webber, Jarno Trulli, Nelson Piquet Jr. and Heikki Kovalainen. Despite winning the 2004 Monaco Grand Prix, Trulli was dropped from Renault by Briatore and replaced by Giancarlo Fisichella.[16]

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".[20] Briatore was duly confirmed on 6 September 2006 as staying at Renault for the 2007 and 2008 seasons.[21]

Briatore replaced Alonso with Kovalainen for 2007, saying "with Kovalainen, I hope to find the anti-Alonso".[22]

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 on 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".[23]

In August 2009, Briatore was heavily criticised by Nelson Piquet Jr., the son of three-time F1 champion Nelson Piquet, after Piquet Jr. was removed from the Renault team. On his personal website, Piquet Jr. called Briatore his "executioner".[24] In an interview with Autosport magazine, Piquet Jr. said that Briatore "is ignorant about Formula 1".[24] Piquet Jr. criticised Briatore for his ego and for his poor sense of race tactics.[24]


Briatore resigned as team principal of Renault due to a race fixing scandal. The controversy centred on an early crash involving Nelson Piquet Jr.'s car during the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix of 28 September 2008, when he was still driving for Renault. 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 he had deliberately crashed to help Renault teammate 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.[25][26] 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."[27][28] The team issued the following official statement:

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.[29]

At the same hearing, the FIA banned Briatore from FIA-sanctioned events indefinitely. The FIA 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 stated that it was coming down hard on Briatore because he denied his involvement despite overwhelming evidence and 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 committed a comparable offence between 2009 and 2011, it was to be indefinitely banned from F1.[30] British newspaper The Daily Mirror described the ban as the harshest sanction ever imposed on an individual in the history of motorsport.[31]

Briatore later said he was "distraught" at the FIA's action and sued the FIA in French courts to clear his name.[32] On 5 January 2010, the Tribunal de Grande Instance overturned the ban and granted him €15,000 in compensation.[33] The tribunal declared in particular that "the decision of the World Council was presided over by the FIA president, who was well known to be in conflict with Briatore, with Mr Mosley having played a leading role in launching the inquiry and its investigation in violation of the principle of separation of the power of the bodies".[34] The FIA announced that it would appeal the decision issued by the French court, but the two parties reached an out-of-court settlement the following April.[35][36]

In an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport, Briatore said that he is sure that he will not return to Formula One, despite having his ban overturned.[37]

Stance on the future of F1[edit]

Briatore has always spoken out about his desires to see F1 provide better entertainment. In 1994, he said: "All the team owners are orientated 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."[16]

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."[38]

In 2007, he even went so far as to suggest that Grands Prix be split into two separate races as in the GP2 series.[39]

On 20 March 2014 he said it was wrong to let the car manufacturers succeed in their push for the all-new regulations, featuring 'greener' engines that use less fuel. "They delegated the writing of rules to engineers who do not care about the fans or entertainment, If Formula One does not change again in the near future, then the audience will be lost. Look at the comments on the internet, in blogs, on Twitter – they did not like the Australian Grand Prix. It was an indecipherable and depressing show. This is unacceptable and now we have chaos" said Briatore.[40]

On 12 June 2014 he said: "I do not like this new Formula One. It's not our Formula 1." "He pointed a finger at cars that "do not make a noise", drivers having to "save fuel" and "fake overtaking". He added: "It is no longer a sport of gladiators, it is a sport of accountants."[41]

Business interests[edit]

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

He created the Billionaire nightclub [it] brand in 1998 and owns a club in Sardinia; in August 2012, he opened another Billionaire club in Marbella under that name along with an haute couture line, Billionaire Italian Couture. In addition to that, he opened Cipriani's restaurant in Mayfair, London, in 2004 and until 2007 owned 48.9% of the pharmaceuticals company Pierrel [it]. He also operates a Tuscan beach club and Lion in the Sun, a holiday resort in Kenya.[16]

Briatore is a beneficiary of Autumn Sailing Ltd, which purchased the super yacht Force Blue from Home Shopping Network investor Roy Speer for £68.2m.[42] She was given a refitted interior designed by Celeste dell'Anna and a blue exterior. The yacht was then chartered by a number of individuals including Briatore, who named it as the most extravagant present he had ever bought himself.[43] In 2010, the yacht was seized by officers investigating a tax fraud over its charter status and VAT on fuel.[44] The Italian Supreme Court ruled that there were no issues with the seizure, though the yacht itself was released[45]

Queens Park Rangers Football Club[edit]

In 2007 Briatore was linked to a takeover of English Championship football club Queens Park Rangers (QPR) from a Monaco-based consortium led by Gianni Paladini.[46] On 1 September 2007 it was officially announced that Briatore (along with Bernie Ecclestone and Lakshmi Mittal) had bought the club.[47] On 7 November 2007, Briatore completed his takeover of QPR together with Ecclestone. He served as the club's chairman.[citation needed]

In December 2007, Briatore and Ecclestone were joined as co-owners of QPR by multi-billionaire Lakshmi Mittal, who bought 20% of the club.[48]

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.[49] 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 had stepped down from the post effective 19 February 2010.[citation needed]

When interviewed about the QPR experience at an Italian chat show he stated "I will never invest in a Football Club again, it's only ever a good idea if you're very rich and looking for ways to waste your money. In two years you'll be very poor and won't have that problem anymore"

Personal life[edit]

In 1998, he became engaged to supermodel Naomi Campbell; they were involved in an on-again-off-again relationship until their separation in 2003. Campbell now considers Briatore her "mentor".[50]

In March 2003, Briatore began dating supermodel Heidi Klum. In December she announced her pregnancy.[51] Soon after, the two split and Klum began dating the musician Seal. Klum gave birth to Leni Klum in May 2004 in New York City.[52] According to Klum, Briatore is not involved in Leni's life; she has stated emphatically that "Seal is Leni's father".[53] In 2009, Briatore allowed Seal to adopt his daughter and change her name.[54]

Briatore married the 'Wonderbra' model Elisabetta Gregoraci on 14 June 2008.[55] Gregoraci gave birth to their son in Nice, France in 2010.[56][unreliable source?]

In 2019 Briatore founded the political party Movimento del Fare.[57]

On 25 August 2020, Briatore was hospitalized after testing positive for COVID-19.[58]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Flavio Briatore si racconta La Repubblica, by DARIO CRESTO-DINA, 16 October 2005 (in Italian)
  2. ^ The Apprentice: flop, inchieste, radiazioni, ma Briatore insegna successo e etica Il Fatto Quotidiano (in Italian)
  3. ^ "La vera vita di Mr Billionaire". l'Espresso. 8 November 2010.
  4. ^ Williams, Richard (17 September 2009). "Flavio Briatore undone by the charisma that powered his rise". guardian.co.uk. London. Retrieved 11 December 2009.
  5. ^ a b "People: Flavio Briatore". GrandPrix.com. Archived from the original on 27 November 2012.
  6. ^ a b La Dolce Vita: What really drives Flavio Briatore? The Independent, Tuesday 23 September 2008, Susie Rushton
  7. ^ "FLAVIO BRIATORE: BIOGRAFIA – Roma Explorer". Archived from the original on 23 September 2009. Retrieved 23 November 2009.
  8. ^ a b Arrestato Briatore, Corriere della Sera, 27 August 1999 (in Italian)
  9. ^ La Corte d'Appello di Brescia (Report). 22 March 1988. N. 579/85 del Reg. Gen. App.(in Italian)
  10. ^ ENRICO BONERANDI (28 November 1986). "UN ANNO E 10 MESI A FEDE PER LE BISCHE CLANDESTINE". La Repubblica (in Italian). p. 16.
  11. ^ La Corte d'Appello di Milano (Report). 13 November 1987. N. 1930/87 del Reg. Gen. App.(in Italian)
  12. ^ LEONARDO COEN (10 May 1984). "BISCHE CLANDESTINE, BERGAMO TREMA". La Repubblica (in Italian). p. 13.
  13. ^ Arrestato Briatore, Corriere della Sera (in Italian)
  14. ^ G. Barbacetto, Briatore. Finito contro un muro, in Il Fatto Quotidiano 27 September 2009, p. 14. (in Italian)
  15. ^ Il Tribunale Di Sorveglianza per il distretto della Corte di Appello di Torino (Report). 9 March 2010. Ordinanza 1029/10.(in Italian)
  16. ^ a b c d e f g "Who's Who: Flavio Briatore". F1Fanatic.co.uk. 2007. Retrieved 18 August 2007.
  17. ^ Eason, Kevin (9 September 2005). "Alonso making life cheap and cheerful for his paymaster". The Times. London. Retrieved 2 May 2010.
  18. ^ "Flavio Briatore rivela: Ho detto no alla Ferrari per ben due volte!". 31 December 2019.
  19. ^ Eason, Kevin (9 September 2005). "Alonso making life cheap and cheerful for his paymaster". The Times. London: News International. Retrieved 1 November 2006.
  20. ^ F1 | Formula 1 – Renault: We must keep Briatore – ITV Sport Archived 23 April 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^ "Renault re-aligns aspirations". www.grandprix.com.
  22. ^ "F1's biggest bombshells". F1Fanatic.co.uk. 2006. Retrieved 18 August 2007.
  23. ^ "Briatore: 'Throw McLaren out'". F1Fanatic.co.uk. 2007. Retrieved 18 August 2007.
  24. ^ a b c Noble, Jonathan; Straw, Edd (13 August 2009). "Piquet: Briatore is ignorant about F1". Autosport.com.
  25. ^ Cary, Tom (17 September 2009). "Q and A: why Renault face race-fixing allegations and other questions". London: The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 17 September 2009.
  26. ^ "Renault blames Briatore & Symonds". BBC Sport. 17 September 2009. Retrieved 17 September 2009.
  27. ^ Dineen, Robert (17 September 2009). "Renault chief admits 'Crashgate' has damaged company". The Times. London. Retrieved 17 September 2009.
  28. ^ "Briatore: I did it for Renault". Sky Sports. 17 September 2009. Retrieved 17 September 2009.
  29. ^ Renault F1 statement, 16 September 2009"ING Renault F1 Team Statement – 16 September 2009". ING Renault F1. 16 September 2009.[dead link]
  30. ^ Noble, Jonathan (21 September 2009). "Renault given two-year suspended ban". Autosport.com. Retrieved 21 September 2009.
  31. ^ Young, Byron (21 September 2009). "Renault owner Flavio Briatore slapped with lifetime F1 ban". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 21 September 2009.
  32. ^ "Flavio Briatore left 'distraught' by Formula One lifetime ban". The Guardian. London. 22 September 2009. Retrieved 25 September 2009.
  33. ^ "Flavio Briatore's ban overturned by French court". ESPN UK.
  34. ^ "Flavio Briatore FIA Court Decision". The Guardian. 5 January 2010.[dead link]
  35. ^ FIA to appeal Briatore decision BBC
  36. ^ Elizalde, Pablo (12 April 2010). "FIA, Briatore reach settlement". autosport.com. Haymarket Publications. Retrieved 12 April 2010.
  37. ^ Lostia, Michele; Elizalde, Pablo (12 March 2010). "Briatore rules out returning to F1". autosport.com. Haymarket Publications. Retrieved 19 March 2010.
  38. ^ "F1 2006 review: In their own words". F1Fanatic.co.uk. 2006. Retrieved 18 August 2007.
  39. ^ "Debate: Are F1 races too long?". F1Fanatic.co.uk. 2007. Retrieved 18 August 2007.
  40. ^ "Flavio Briatore slams the new face of Formula 1 - F1Today.net Formula 1 news". Archived from the original on 15 June 2014. Retrieved 14 June 2014.
  41. ^ "Briatore: It's not our Formula 1 | Planet F1 | Formula One | News, Standings, Results, Features, Video". Archived from the original on 18 June 2014. Retrieved 15 June 2014.
  42. ^ "La Dolce Vita: What really drives Flavio Briatore?". The Independent. London. 23 September 2008. Retrieved 21 May 2009.
  43. ^ "My London: Interview with Flavio Briatore". London Evening Standard. 25 November 2005. p. 122. Retrieved 16 January 2013.
  44. ^ Pisa, Nick (22 May 2010). "Fraud Probe Cops Seize Playboy's Pounds 15m Yacht; Wife and Son on Board during Dramatic Chase". Daily Record. p. 15. Retrieved 16 January 2013.
  45. ^ "Cassazione: legittimo intercettare Briatore". Il Secolo XIX. 18 April 2012. Archived from the original on 7 January 2016. Retrieved 16 January 2013.
  46. ^ Jacob, Gary; Gorman, Edward (30 August 2007). "Ecclestone chooses QPR over Arsenal". The Times. London. Retrieved 22 September 2009.
  47. ^ "CLUB STATEMENT" (Press release). Queens Park Rangers Football Club. 3 September 2007. Archived from the original on 18 February 2008. Retrieved 22 September 2009.
  48. ^ Patrick Nathanson and agencies (20 December 2007). "Lakshmi Mittal invests in QPR". Archived from the original on 12 January 2022 – via www.telegraph.co.uk.
  49. ^ Dineen, Robert (21 September 2009). "Flavio Briatore faces uncertainty over QPR role". The Times. London. Retrieved 2 May 2010.
  50. ^ Iley, Chrissy (8 January 2006). "Chrissy Iley meets Naomi Campbell". The Observer. ISSN 0029-7712. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
  51. ^ "NEWS BRIEFS: Madonna Chooses Clark". PEOPLE.com.
  52. ^ "Klum, Dixie Chick Welcome 3 Baby Girls". People.
  53. ^ William Keck (3 December 2007). "Celeb Watch: Heidi Klum relishes her model family life". USA Today. Retrieved 4 December 2007.
  54. ^ "Seal Opens Up About Decision to Adopt Leni". Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 5 December 2012.
  55. ^ "Briatore finally ties the knot". autosport.com. 16 June 2008. Retrieved 19 June 2008.
  56. ^ Flavio Briatore & Elisabetta Gregoraci Welcome Son: Falco Nathan! | Celebrity Baby Scoop
  57. ^ "Flavio Briatore fonda Movimento del Fare/ Discesa in politica e affinità con Salvini". 13 August 2019.
  58. ^ "Coronavirus-sceptic businessman Briatore hospitalized with virus". Reuters. 25 August 2020. Retrieved 4 September 2020.

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