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'I think my throat is still sore from the screaming!'
London 2012 insiders' Olympic Games memorie
lavio Briatore, 62, is the colourful head
of the Billionaire luxury lifestyle brand,
which encompasses a Sardinian
nightclub, a Tuscan resort a Kenyan
spa, London's Cipriani restaurant
and a chain of high-end menswear shops.
He began his career with Italian clothing
company Benetton before moving into
Formula One, where he led both the
Benetton and Renault teams to world
championships. He resigned from Renault
following a race-fixing scandal. In 2007
Briatore and Fl magnate Bernie Ecclestone
took over Queens Park Rangers football club,
successfully steering it into the Premiership
before ending their involvement. Briatore
has proved to be something of a magnet
for supermodels, and in 2008 he married
Wonderbra model Elisabetta Gregoraci,
30 years his junior. The couple have a twoyear-old son,
businesslife How's business?
flavio briatore We are very happy. After just
a few years we already have 20 Billionaire shops
and we plan to have 50 shops within the next
two years. There's not one shop at this moment
that is losing money. People keep coming back
and they are very proud to wear Billionaire. You
go to Russia right now and it's the brand to be.
37 beautiful girls, it works much better! I called it
Billionaire because it was all about dreams. After
that we had the beach resort in Tuscany, the spa
in Kenya, the restaurant in London and of course
the clothing. It's all part of a lifestyle. Next will
come womenswear and children's clothing. Then
Billionaire Home. I love interior decoration. If I
wasn't so busy I would want to be a decorator!
bl What do you think has been the secret of
your success?
fb Whether it's Formula One or clothing, it's
exactly the same, You need a very competitive
product, So in Formula One I made sure that I
had a good car and a good driver inside the
car, At the time I didn't have the money to
hire a driver like Senna or Prost. I needed to
find someone to grow with us and we found
Schumacher. Seven years later we did the same
with Renault and found Fernando Alonso and
we won the championship again.
bli, You make it sound very simple.
fb I believe it is simple, If you are an artist, you
have creativity and you paint. If you are an
entrepreneur you need to have the creativity to
find the right people for your company. I believe
entrepreneurs are creative people. They create
new brands, new jobs, new adventures.
bl Do you miss Formula One?
bl Do you worry about the state of the
European economy?
fb The European economy is flat, but we are
more interested in the new countries. We're
very strong in Russia and in Dubai, and we're
looking to go into China and Brazil. We have
the flexibility to go wherever we think there's a
market. We follow the money. We don't have
any shops in France or Italy - except for Sardinia,
and Sardinia is really not Italy - and we're not
looking at Europe right now.
bl How did you go about building your brand?
fb We started with the nightclub in Sardinia 14
years ago. To me, the atmosphere in a club is
always the key. You can paint the ceiling with
gold, but if there is no atmosphere inside, it will
not work. But if you have no furniture at all and
lb I don't miss the travelling. But Formula One
was part of my life. I have a lot of friends there
and I'm happy to watch the races. Now it's fun
and more relaxed. Back then the two hours of
a Grand Prix were never fun. I still have a very
good relationship with everyone. Just today I
had lunch with Christian Homer and Bernie
Ecclestone. I talk with Bernie three or four times
a day. He is a genius. I mentioned before about
following the money, but Bernie taught
everybody that lesson. When he suggested
racing in China, everybody laughed. Without
Bernie, I don't think Formula One would be
around today. He was the only one with the
big picture. 360°. Sometimes 400°I
bl Your website describes your "unique and
innovative management style". How would you
define that?
fb Firstly, you need to be able to spot whether
people have the potential to succeed. You
feel it when you discover a new driver such as
Schumacher or Alonso or Fisichella. You feel it is
somebody special. And management is the
same. If it's, say, somebody managing a shop,
you have a sense of whether they can do it.
Then after you have put the right people in the
right places, you need to be a dictator as well.
Democratic but a dictator. Because in a
company you can't have two or three people
making the decisions.
Some people like my style of management
and some people don't. At QPR I changed six or
seven coaches - because they were no good.
Simple as that. If at the beginning I had found a
Mourinho, I would have kept him forever. But I
didn't find any Mourinhos.
bl What did you learn about the football
business at QPR?
lb I learnt that football is not for the
entrepreneur. No way is it a business. You have
people who pay £20 to come to the stadium
insulting you and telling you what you need to
do, After you've invested millions! In Formula
One, if you are smart, if you know what you
are doing, you make money. In football - it's
impossible. If you're a billionaire and want to
be a millionaire, invest in football. If you're a
millionaire and want to have nothing, invest
in football. People criticised us because we
didn't want to spend money. But we achieved
our goal and were promoted from the
Championship. And then we sold the club. In
the Premier League it's only a question of how
much money you pump in every year to make
the people who pay £20 happy.
bl How much has your life changed now you're
married and have a small child at home?
fb For me, having a child at this age is
fantastic because I can appreciate it. It's
something that makes me happy. And whatever
you're doing in life, being happy is always the
most important thing.•
Interview by Tim Hulse. Portrait by Richard Cannon
For more information visit billionairecouture.com
, ..,
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1464 111‘\,
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Football is not for
the entrepreneur.
No way is it a business
a Gadgets
And lust haves
business life
JULY 2012

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