Flavio Briatore is an Italian billionaire businessman with vast interests in various sectors of the Kenyan economy. He is famous in Kenya for his role in upgrading Malindi as a tourist destination.
Briatore has also had his fair share of controversies, having been charged and convicted twice. He has also been banned from sporting events.
He is a savvy businessman who boasts a vast investment portfolio. He is the owner of Billionaire Resort and Lion in the Sun Resort, both in Malindi, Kilifi County.
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In this article, WoK takes a lot at the life of Briatoire, his business interests, and controversies.
Education & background
Briatore was born in Verzuolo, Italy on April 12, 1950, to a family of elementary school teachers.
He failed public school twice and was enrolled at a private school where he received a diploma with the lowest grades in Land Surveying at Fassino di Busca high school.
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Briatore started out as a ski instructor and restaurant manager. He opened a restaurant named Tribüla, which was his nickname. The restaurant was unsuccessful and had to close due to excessive debt.
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 March 21, 1979, in a car bomb attack by an unknown assailant.
Briatore moved to Milan and worked for Finanziaria Generale Italia at the Italian stock exchange. During this period, he met Luciano Benetton, founder of the Benetton clothing company and he went to work for him.
The businessman was sentenced to two jail terms in the 1980s, both for fraud. His first term was for 1 year 6 months but he served 1 year after a successful appeal. His second sentence was for 3 years and was appealed down to 1 year. He, however, ran to the Virgin Islands and did not serve the jail term.
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Briatore returned to the EU after years in the British Islands. He was allowed to return after the sentences were quashed by amnesty.
While in the Virgin Islands, Briatore kept a close relationship with Benetton who allowed him to operate stores in the islands.
When Benetton opened Benetton stores in the US, he appointed Briatore as the head of the company’s operations in North America. In 1989, the company had a boom and operated around 800 stores in America. Briatore became very wealthy since he had a piece of the company.
A complaint from Benetton store operators saw the company scale down to 200 stores to reduce competition. Briatore began to look into other ventures.
Briatore has since ventured into various businesses. He was the owner of Renault F1 Racing team. Briatore resigned as team principal of Renault in 2009 due to a race-fixing scandal from 2008. An investigation by Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) found Renault guilty of fixing.
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He was also the owner of English Championship side QPR. He had acquired the club in 2007. Following Briatore’s ban from FIA, the Football League requested that FIA provide details of its investigation. Briatore was forced out of QPR under rules that stipulate a club owner must be a “fit and proper person”.
He stepped down as QPR chairman effective February 19, 2010.
Briatore created the Billionaire nightclub brand in 1998 and owns a club in Sardinia. In August 2012, he opened Billionaire Italian Couture Marbella. He also opened Cipriani’s restaurant in Mayfair, London, in 2004.
Until 2007, Briatore owned 48.9 per of the pharmaceuticals company Pierrel.
He also owns Billionaire Resort and Lion in the Sun Resort, both in Malindi.
The hotels are famed for hosting international celebrities such as British supermodel Naomi Campbell and former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in the past.
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Relationship with President Uhuru Kenyatta
Briatore and President Kenyatta enjoy a close relationship. The two were together at the Kenya Business Forum in Dubai on January 16.
Uhuru and Briatore, together, attended ODM leader Raila Odinga’s 74th birthday which was held in Mombasa.
In 2018, the billionaire decried the declining status of Malindi – Kilifi County, as a tourist destination. He threatened to pull out his investments in the country if the government did resolve the poor business environment in Kenya.
“Investors cannot put their money on a stinking and filthy town and the roads [are] full of potholes,” he was qouted by the Standard.
“We have 10 resorts and close to 100 private villas in this area yet the local administration deemed it fit to set up a dumpsite in our midst,” Briatore lamented, at the time.
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