By Gregor Brown
The Giro d'Italia organisation has fired its race director, Michele Acquarone, according to an article on Italy's La Presse website. It had suspended Acquarone on October 1 while investigating a reported €13m in missing funds.
According to the article, RCS Mediagroup, parent group of organiser RCS Sport, also dismissed former CEO, Giacomo Catano.
Acquarone, 41 years old from Sanremo, maintains his innocence. He scheduled a press conference in Milan for Thursday to explain his side of the story.
Last month, he told Cycling Weekly, "I've never had my hands on the money, the only money I've seen was represented in digits on our reports: X amount of income and X amount of costs. My goal was to make sure the accounts were in order and to make the best product possible, a long-lasting one."
Following the World Championships further south in Florence, the publishing house in Milan started causing waves. Milano Finanza reported that €13m (£10.7) went missing and RCS Mediagroup began an investigation. It suspended Acquarone and media relations director, Matteo Pastore. Administrative director, Laura Bertinotti quit and Catano switched departments.
RCS announced it handed the investigation over to outside experts. Soon after, Raimondo Zanaboni replaced Chairman Flavio Biondi. Zanaboni presented the 2014 Giro d'Italia on October 7, not Acquarone. Acquarone has been sitting at home for two months. He said at the time: "I don't understand and I just want to return to work".
Over the weekend, he scheduled a press conference and Italian website, Tutto Bici reported that Paolo Bellino could step in to lead the Giro. In addition to the Giro, RCS Sport organises other races Strade Bianche, Roma Maxima, Tirreno-Adriatico Milan-San Remo and Lombardy. It also runs events like the Milan Marathon.
RCS and Acquarone were unavailable to confirm the news when Cycling Weekly tried to contact them for this article. If true, Acquarone served the shortest term at the head of the Giro d'Italia. He joined mid-2011 and became only the Giro d'Italia's fifth boss in 104 years.
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