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FORMER RESIDENT STILL IN THE LIMELIGHT

Remember Flavio Briatore? The Flavio Briatore who owned the St. Thomas Benetton stores and Club Z back in the mid-‘80s?
Well, there he is, big as life, in a photo in the May 26 issue of the Italian magazine Oggi with his significant other — supermodel Naomi Campbell.
Briatore, now one of the major players in Formula One motor racing, lives in London. The Oggi caption says the photos — featuring Campbell, Liz Hurley and Elle McPherson — were taken at a recent birthday party in London for designer Valentino.
The photo of Campbell and Briatore describes him as her "inseparabile fidanzato." Italian speakers say "fidanzato" translates as fiancé but could also mean boyfriend.
Flavio Briatore is (and has been for 10 years or so) one of the power brokers in Formula One. In the early ‘80s, according to a Formula One maven in St. Thomas, he parlayed his relationship with Benetton into becoming team manager of the then-fledgling United Colors of Benetton Formula One Team. (At that time, by the way, he had never actually been to a Formula One race; his expertise was in marketing.)
During his tenure at the Benetton team, his lead driver, Michael Schumacher (now with Ferrari) brought the team two championships (1994-1995). Briatore left Benetton in 1997; they hired a new team manager in 1998 who failed. In 1999 the youngest Benetton, Rocco Benetton, took over the team, which has not yet returned to the glory days of Flavio Briatore and Michael Schumacher. Briatore, our maven reports, was out of Formula One for a year or so but is now back in two forms. First, he is the supplier of the so-called "Supertec" engine (which is a Renault-based engine, formerly the best engine in Formula One but now in its dotage) to his old team, Benetton, to the Williams teams and to a new team, BAR. Second, Briatore has control over certain contracts of certain Formula One drivers, and acts as agent of some kind. Flavio Briatore, a true wheeler-dealer on the world stage…. and he's got Naomi Campbell to boot. And to think it all started here in sunny little St. Thomas!

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