Intensely Italian


By Shereen Shabnam

Flavio Briatore has worn many hats in his career and achieved a host of successes in different industries he has worked in but he is best known for bringing into Formula One a unique and innovative management style where he used marketing and communication to attract and secure affluent sponsors and prominent partners to the team.

Flavio, now 66 years old was born in Verzuolo in Northern Italy to parents who were elementary school teachers and grew up with siblings, twins Rita and Walter. Flavio married Elisabetta Gregoraci, showgirl and actress in 2009 and they have a son, Nathan Falco aged six.  

Flavio dedicates a lot of time to family, especially to Falco and enjoys being with him the most to witness all the stages of him growing up. They play together but they also have serious talks about everything.

Currently Flavio is based in Monte Carlo but has a beautiful house in his Resort in Malindi on the Kenyan Coast plus has a summerhouse in Costa Smeralda. He prefers his homes to be spacious, comfortable and loves black and white or neutral tones with a modern but sophisticated style. His selects the location carefully for beautiful views and accessibility to everything for his homes.

After finishing school, Flavio was impatient to leave his little town and started to work as soon as he graduated from high school as an insurance salesman, a ski instructor in his spare time when he realized he had good commercial sense.

His big break through happened when he met Luciano Benetton in the mid eighties who became his first mentor. The Entrepreneur played a key role in Flavio’s career as later he opened several clothing stores in franchising and contributed actively to Benetton’s expansion in the US markets. Flavio learnt a lot during the expansion and it was great for him to be part of that big venture and success.

Flavio attended his first-ever Formula One race at the Australian Grand Prix, in 1988. A year later, Luciano Benetton appointed him Commercial Director of his Formula One team, Benetton Formula Ltd. Soon after, he was promoted to managing director and set about turning Benetton Formula into a competitive team. It was through Formula One that Flavio met another mentor Bernie Ecclestone. To this day, Luciano and Bernie are the people Flavio most admires from the business point of view and considers his close friends.

Not long after that, Billionaire Couture was conceived as the fashion extension of the Billionaire life brand as a luxury menswear brand for men who want comfort, want to distinguish themselves and  know style and quality. Flavio started the brand in 2005 with the group Percassi and in Spring 2016 they created a joint venture with his friend Philipp Plein. Philipp, who has been very successful with his own brand, is now managing Billionaire Couture and has a great programme for the development and growth of the brand.

The brand Billionairelife was originated by the name Flavio gave to the first nightclub he opened, back in 1998 in Costa Smeralda. At that point Sardinia had lost a lot of its glamour and there was no other place to go and spend a great evening. Flavio chose the name Billionaire because it was a bit arrogant and people would easily remember it!

In no time, the Club became famous and in the course of the years its fame spread worldwide amongst sports, cinema, entertainment celebrities from all over the world who wanted to come to the Billionaire Club. Plus normal people felt like billionaires when they stepped into the club.

Flavio sees the Middle East and especially Dubai full of opportunities with local authorities encouraging and welcoming new projects. He sees Dubai as a lively, International, splendid city both for business and pleasure and people appreciate excellent services. It is a very challenging environment but Flavio strives for the best and so far Billionaire Mansion Dubai has been a great success. They have already won an award from WHAT’S ON as the best new comer in the Dubai night scene and the restaurant has a nomination for best restaurant.

Other than the Billionaire Clubs during the Formula One weekends, he also developed the brand Twiga (Swahili for Giraffe) and opened Cipriani in Monte Carlo. Twiga Sumosan London is on Sloane Street, where Flavio talks about reproducing the same restaurant formula of Italian and Japanese that is at the Mansion, together with an exclusive nightclub. He also has also a new project in Monte Carlo, a new Twiga in Southern Italy, both for Spring 2017 with more in the pipeline.

Flavio tells us that when he does something, he always put an extra effort that takes his enterprises a step forward with the best personnel, the best services, the best food and the absolute best for entertainment, shows, talents and DJs.

The secret to Flavio’s success is hard work, never relax, choose the best teams of people and make them grow so that they are loyal, finding the right local partners and choosing locations where the target clientele gravitates regularly.

He would like to bring the Billionaire Manson concept elsewhere, but he also knows that in Dubai you cannot rest on your laurels and must keep pushing because competition is very strong. Dubai Billionaire Mansion has introduced the Dinner Shows, which are proving to be a great success with a great team of professional artists showcasing acrobatic acts in unbelievable costumes.

Flavio stays a lot at Billionaire Mansion, for business and pleasure but he also visits all the competitors as it is good to know what the others do. He finds the Taj Hotel venue a fantastic hotel, very modern and with great service and he is very glad that Billionaire Mansion is there.

As expected, Flavio mentions to us that his experience with Formula One has been the greatest part of his career from every point of view. Bringing Fernando Alonso in as a test driver was a good move. “When you know that a driver has talent, even very young can be an asset to the team and in Fernando’s case, team and driver grew together and worked for the same objective. Succeeding in Formula One is very tough. Every fifteen days you loose or win, it’s a constant battle. Competition is fierce, you need means and a lot of elements: a good team of professionals, good drivers, good sponsors, and it’s very difficult to break through,” he reminiscences.

Flavio follows F1 and is still involved in the marketing side of it, acting as an advisor. He does not miss the constant travelling and all the sacrifices that one makes as Team Principals. Today he has other priorities: his son, enjoying the family life and the other businesses. Flavio does a lot of charity work, in Europe and Africa but does not associate himself to any big institution and prefers doing it his way.

“My management style involves being flexible and fast in making decisions or also changing decisions. Not be afraid to make unpopular choices if you really believe in them. Also, trust young talent and nurture it, mould your own team rather then surround yourself with ‘experts’. In my career, I also learnt that football is very hard business. But I am very satisfied of what Bernie and I did. And we sold at the right time.”

“My years at Benetton were very formative. Formula One was a fantastic time and having won seven championships has been a great achievement. But I am enjoying a lot of what I am doing now. It’s great to bring a project to life and to create business and job opportunities for many young people. Everyone who works for us knows that his or her hard work will be rewarded. I am always ready to advance people in their career and give a lot of trust as well. In return I want motivated hard workers with a positive, problem-solving attitude,” he adds.

Flavio likes to live a productive life and his mentors Luciano Benetton and Bernie Ecclestone, both men with a vision, with an open mind, who have built empires from nothing have taught him a lot.  They love to work and they love new challenges and a unique way to see the world. Hence Flavio believes that to succeed in life, it takes determination, being serious, being daring but never take big risks and being rational and passionate about the work.

We could go on forever about Flavio’s career, his achievements and his life but would conclude by wishing him and his team the best in his future endeavours.

Shereen Shabnam

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