Flavio Briatore, banned from Formula One over the "Crashgate" affair, now faces questions over his role as co-owner of England's Queens Park Rangers Football Club.
The Football League here said it has requested details of The International Automobile Federation (FIA), motorsport's governing body, decision to ban the former team boss of Renault over his part in conspiring to fix the result of last year's Singapore Grand Prix.
Briatore has denied all the accusations against him over the affair, saying they were "outrageous lies".
FIA president Max Mosley defended the lifetime ban meted out to Briatore on Monday for the Italian's part in conspiring to fix the result of last year's Singapore 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 ING Renault F1 from 2000 to 2009. Since 2007, he is part-owner and chairman of London's Queens Park Rangers F.C. On September 16, 2009, Briatore left the ING Renault F1 team due to his involvement in race fixing at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix, and was subsequently banned for life from associating with events or series sanctioned by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA).
Early life and Benetton career
Briatore was born in Verzuolo near Cuneo, Italy, in the Maritime Alps, to a family of elementary school teachers. He received a diploma in Land Surveying at Fassino di Busca's high school with the lowest grades. Briatore found early work as a ski instructor and restaurant manager. He opened a restaurant named Tribüla, which was Briatore's nickname. The restaurant eventually closed.
In the 1970s, he moved to Cuneo and became an assistant to businessman Attilio Dutto, owner of the Paramatti Vernici (formerly owned by Michele Sindona). Dutto was killed on 21 March 1979 in a car bomb attack by an unknown perpetrator. From then on, Briatore started his unorthodox business career.
Briatore next moved to Milan and worked in the Italian stock exchange. During this period, he met Luciano Benetton, founder of the Benetton clothing company. The two became friends and eventually business partners. 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 unorthodox 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.
Benetton was also known for its divisive and attention-grabbing advertisements. Briatore explained how they raised the company's profile: "We decided to do something very controversial that people would pick up on -- 50% of people thought it was great and 50% thought it was awful, but in the meantime everyone was talking about Benetton."
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.
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 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).
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.
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.'
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.
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.
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.' Briatore was duly confirmed as staying at Renault for the 2007 and 2008 seasons on 6 September 2006.
Briatore replaced Alonso with Kovalainen for 2007, saying: "With Kovalainen, I hope to find the anti-Alonso".
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."
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."
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 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."
M Renault Formula One crash controversy
Search Wikinews Wikinews has related news: Renault F1's team boss, top engineer quit as team accepts cheating claim
Briatore was forced to resign as team principal of Renault due to a race fixing scandal. The controversy centred 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 an 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. 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."
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.
—Renault F1 statement, 16 September 2009
At the same hearing, FIA banned Briatore from FIA-sanctioned events for life. The ban means that Briatore will be unable to even 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 FIA drivers as well. FIA came down hard on Briatore because he denied his involvement despite overwhelming evidence. FIA seriously considered throwing Renault out of F1 as well, but opted to hand down a suspended two-year ban because of the swift action taken by Renault in dismissing Briatore and Symonds. The Daily Mirror described the ban as the harshest sanction ever imposed on an individual in the history of motorsport.
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 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."
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."
In 2007 he even went so far as to suggest that Grands Prix be split into two separate races as in the GP2 series.
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 owns the pharmaceuticals company Pierrel. He also operates a Tuscan beach club and Lion in the Sun, a holiday resort in Kenya.
He purchased the super yacht Force Blue from Home Shopping Network investor Roy Speer for £68.2m. 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. On 1 September 2007 it was officially announced that Briatore (along with Bernie Ecclestone) had bought Queens Park Rangers (QPR) Football Club.
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
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.
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. 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.