Franco Ambrosio

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Franco Ambrosio
Francesco Vittorio Ambrosio

(1932-09-18)18 September 1932
Died15 April 2009(2009-04-15) (aged 76)
Cause of deathBlunt trauma

Francesco Vittorio 'Franco' Ambrosio (18 September 1932 – 15 April 2009) was a businessman from Italy who financed Formula One racing teams Arrows and Shadow in the late 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 San Gennarello, a neighbourhood close to Mount Vesuvius in the Ottaviano frazione of Naples.


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 led 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 led Ambrosio to have him replaced by the more promising Riccardo Patrese.[5] 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.

Convictions and imprisonment[edit]

Franco Ambrosio was arrested several times for fraud and financial irregularities.[6]

In 1980 he was jailed in Lugano for complicity in a fraud scheme involving the Banco di Roma in Switzerland. Ambrosio made two unsuccessful escape attempts - in November 1981 by bribing a guard and hiding in a garbage bin, and in August 1982.[7]

His sentence was for five years, but he was released in February 1983 after serving three years.[8]

In October 1993 he was jailed for money laundering and receiving stolen goods in the Enimont corruption scandal, in which a large chemical company was found to have bribed politicians in return for tax relief.[6]

In June 1994 he was arrested for attempted bribery, and fraud in declaring bankruptcy in claiming EU subsidies for non-existent grain shipments to Algeria.[9]

On 10 January 2001, he was arrested for fraud and false accounting.

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.[10]


On the morning of 15 April 2009 his eldest son Massimo discovered the bodies of Ambrosio and his wife Giovanna Sacco in their seaside villa in Posillipo, Naples.[11] 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.[12][13]


  1. ^ "La scheda: chi era Franco Ambrosio (File: Who was Franco Ambrosio)" (in Italian). La Stampa newspaper. 2009-04-15. Retrieved 2010-04-23.
  2. ^ "Finisce nel sangue l'avventura dell'ultimo re dei cereali (The adventures of the last king of cereals end in blood)" (in Italian). Il Sole 24 Ore newspaper. 2009-04-16. Retrieved 2010-04-23.
  3. ^ "GP Encyclopedia: Renzo Zorzi". Inside F1, Inc. Retrieved 2010-04-23.
  4. ^ "Grand Prix Archive: Renzo Zorzi". Crash Media Group Ltd. Archived from the original on 2011-07-23. Retrieved 2010-04-23.
  5. ^ Taylor, Simon. "Lunch with... Riccardo Patrese". Motor Sport Magazine (May 2010). Motor Sport Ltd. p. 84. Retrieved 20 January 2016.
  6. ^ a b Ragone, Ottavio (11 January 2001). "Dai silos di Napoli alla contuista degli Usa". La Repubblica (in Italian). GEDI Gruppo Editoriale S.p.A. Retrieved 25 October 2018.
  7. ^ Emissione di titoli falsi: in carcere Franco Ambrosio, Corriere della Sera, 19 June 1994
  8. ^ Valentino, Piero. "Torna In Cella Ambrosio L' Ex Miliardario D' Assalto". La Reppublica. Gruppo Editoriale L’Espresso Spa. Retrieved 14 August 2015.
  9. ^ "'Grain king' brutally murdered in Naples with wife". Italy Magazine. 2009-04-16. Retrieved 2010-04-23.
  10. ^ "Campania. Omicidio Ambrosio:una vita tra jet privati e fuoribordo. (Campania: The Ambrosio murder: a life of private jets and speedboats)". Retesei television. 2009-04-15. Archived from the original on 2009-04-20. Retrieved 2010-04-23.
  11. ^ "Napoli, assassinato il re del grano La polizia: "Ladri stranieri e balordi" (The king of grain is murdered in Naples. Police say "Imbecilic foreign thieves")". Il Giornale newspaper. 2009-04-16. Retrieved 2010-04-23.
  12. ^ "Ambrosio, presi 3 romeni: il killer è l'ex giardiniere (Ambrosio, 3 Romanians held: the killer is the former gardener)". Il Giornale newspaper. 2009-04-17. Retrieved 2011-09-23.
  13. ^ "Napoli, re del grano ucciso con la moglie". La Repubblica (in Italian). Gruppo Editoriale L’Espresso Spa. 15 April 2009. Retrieved 16 October 2018.

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.