- Category : Business
- Type : GP
- Profile : 2/4 - Hermit / Opportunist
- Definition : Split - Small (16,20)
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Maya 1
Flavio Briatore (born April 12, 1950) is an Italian entrepreneur and managing director of the Renault Formula One team.
Early life and Benetton career
Briatore was born in Verzuolo near Cuneo, Italy, in the Maritime Alps, from a family of elementary school teachers. He got a diploma in Land Surveying at Fassino di Busca's high school with the lowest marks. Briatore found early work as a ski instructor and restaurant manager. He opened a restaurant named Tribüla, which was Briatore's nickname and indicates someone who is prepared to undergo any trouble in order to get what he wants. The restaurant eventually closed.
In the 1970s he lived in Cuneo and became an assistant to businessman Attilio Dutto, owner of the Paramatti Vernici (formerly owned by Michele Sindona). Dutto was killed on March 21, 1979 in a car bomb attack ascribed to the Red Brigades.
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 director of the group's American operations.
Due to Benetton's unorthodox method of franchising, the chain experienced a brief boom in American popularity. By 1989, there were eight hundred stores in the United States. 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.
Formula One career
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 made him commercial director of his Formula One team, Benetton Formula Ltd. (formerly Toleman), and when he fired the team management shortly thereafter, Briatore was made managing director and set about turning Benetton into a competitive constructor. 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 ' knew Schumacher could be the best and built a team around him at Benetton that walked all over Damon Hill and a Williams team producing a far superior car on a bigger budget.' 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.
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 sold Renault engines, rebadging them as Supertecs.
In 2000, Renault returned 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-spotter , and probably his greatest 'find' has been Fernando Alonso. Briatore contracted the then-seventeen year-old 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 dropped 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.' In 2005, while Button was tangled in a contracts dispute for the second time in a year and had yet to win a Grand Prix, Alonso won the championship. He followed this by winning the 2006 championship.
Briatore also acts as manager for Mark Webber and Heikki Kovalainen, and formerly managed Jarno Trulli.
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.
In the late 1990s, Briatore gained notoriety among European tabloids for his romantic relationships with supermodels such as Naomi Campbell, Adriana Volpe, and Heidi Klum. Klum gave birth to Briatore's only child, a daughter named Leni, on 4 May 2004.
According to the Italian gossip media, Briatore is engaged to marry the 26-year-old 'Wonderbra' model Elisabetta Gregoraci.