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Friday, April 25, 2008

Briatore and Ecclestone's QPR Success Story

The Times/Kevin Eason - April 25, 2008 Insider: April 25 - Cristal and caviar at QPR

As Bernie Ecclestone surveys his domain today, he can be content that his business model is working at full power, no matter how many times it has almost been derailed by events away from the Formula One track. Ecclestone pioneered the concept of corporate hospitality with his Formula One Paddock Club, which attracts well-heeled patrons prepared to pay as much as £1,000 a head.

That idea could be translated to football and Queens Park Rangers, the club he co-owns with Flavio Briatore, the Renault Formula One team principal. If the Coca-Cola Championship club are to spin money like the top sides and push for promotion to the Barclays Premier League, the problem of Loftus Road, QPR's cramped home on and off for about 90 years, will have to be solved. Ecclestone has not identified a potential alternative ground and a capacity of fewer than 20,000 is too small for the top flight.

But Ecclestone and Briatore plan to drive the QPR audience upmarket with more and better corporate seats. There are rumours that the price of hospitality boxes will soar, but Ecclestone is anxious to get the product right first. “We are not going to drive out the existing fans, but we need to generate more income,” he said. “We did it in Formula One and we can do it in football.”

The QPR directors' box is already a repository for famous visitors such as Naomi Campbell, the supermodel. With Ecclestone (worth £2.5billion) bringing in Lakshmi Mittal (worth £14.5billion) as an investor, the pies and Oxo could soon be replaced by champagne and caviar. QPR

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