Franco Ambrosio

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Franco Ambrosio (18 September 1932 - 15 April 2009, aged 76) was a businessman from Italy who financed Formula One racing teams Arrows and Shadow in the 1970s. He became a multi-millionaire through wheat trading, primarily for pasta production, and built up a large business empire. He was involved in financial scandals and served jail terms. He was murdered in a robbery at his home near Naples in 2009.


Francesco Vittorio Ambrosio was born on 18 September 1932 in the village of San Gennariello di Ottaviano near Naples and close to Mount Vesuvius.

Business career[edit]

At the age of 18 he joined a wheat milling business near Naples which he rose to lead within 10 years. He renamed the business Italgrani SpA in 1960.[1] Its huge financial growth lead to his nickname 'the king of grain' (Italian: il re del grano). Italgrani expanded rapidly in the 1980s into Africa, Australia, and the United States. Ambrosio created a holding company comprising up to 50 companies, importing and exporting various commodities. The businesses gradually unravelled in the 1990s as his involvements in several financial scandals were discovered.[2] He declared the Italgrani company bankrupt in 1999.

Formula One[edit]

Ambrosio sponsored the Shadow Formula One team in 1977, backing the Italian driver Renzo Zorzi.[3][4] Zorzi's lack of success lead Ambrosio to have him replaced by the more promising Riccardo Patrese. Ambrosio joined the majority of the Shadow staff when they broke away to form the Arrows Formula One team for the 1978 season. The first Arrows car was named FA1, using Ambrosio's initials. Ambrosio ceased his sponsorship when jailed in the same year for financial offences.

Financial scandals[edit]

Ambrosio was involved in a number of financial scandals. These include colluding with politicians who approved large bank loans in return for kickbacks and campaign contributions, money-laundering and involvement in the Enimont scandal, in which a large chemical company was found to have bribed politicians in return for tax relief. In 1994 he was arrested for fraudulently claiming EU subsidies for non-existent grain shipments to Algeria.[5] At the time of his death Ambrosio was due in court to appeal against a nine-year prison sentence for false accounting when declaring the bankruptcy of Italgrani.[6]


On the morning of 15 April 2009 one of his sons discovered the bodies of Ambrosio and his wife Giovanna Sacco in their coastal villa in Posillipo near Naples.[7] The cause of his death was injuries to the head from a blunt object. There were signs of a robbery - a broken window, possessions scattered and valuables missing. The next day three Romanian immigrants, including one who had worked as his gardener, were arrested and charged with the murder.[8]


Further reading[edit]

  • Jones, Bruce (1996). The ultimate encyclopedia of Formula One: the definitive illustrated guide. MotorBooks International,. pp. 76, 98. ISBN 0-7603-0313-4.