Paolo Bellino wants to help Giro d'Italia organiser RCS Sport leave behind a €13m financial scandal that rocked the company. The Italian from Turin began managing the sports organisation five weeks ago, after a management shake-up that saw former head Michele Acquarone fired.
"It's a bad story, a bad story that left its mark. It's a hard blow for RCS Sport," Bellino told Cycling Weekly. "I hope it will overcome this bad moment as soon as possible."
The investigation continues in the hands of a Milan public prosecutor. Milano Finanzia newspaper reported in October that parent company RCS Mediagroup discovered missing funds and suspended management, including Managing Director Acquarone. By year end, its sports subsidiary changed completely. Chairman Flavio Biondi stepped down. RCS Mediagroup fired Acquarone and former CEO Giacomo Catano. Administrative director, Laura Bertinotti quit, and media relations director, Matteo Pastore has yet to return.
Acquarone in a press conference denied taking any money. He said, "I've always tried to do everything with transparency in these years." He added that he felt like a scapegoat.
RCS Mediagroup owns La Gazzetta dello Sport, the pink newspaper daily that began the Giro d'Italia in 1909. Behind the Tour de France, it's the second biggest stage race. It hired Bellino on December 19 as general manager. The 44-year-old with experience in organising other sports, oversees all RCS Sports' events, including its Milano marathon and basketball.
"I read about [the scandal] in the newspapers. But that's it. I had my meetings with RCS Sport after it all was settled," Bellino said.
"I don't know if it caused damage for Italian cycling. For RCS, it's a bad story. For sure, the damage was not insignificant for RCS. ... RCS always had a certain image, and with the actions it took, it tried to bring its image to the same level as before, the one it merits."
Besides the shake up – Raimondo Zanaboni replaced Biondi and Riccardo Taranto took Catano's spot – Bellino said the way RCS Sport manages its accounts changed.
"There procedures and steps of control that give much more attention to avoid what happened before," continued Bellino. "What happened before, though, I don't want to comment on for various reasons. There's an ongoing investigation, and it needs to take its course. The top management has changed and there's different feeling now."
Bellino made his first official trip to the Dubai Tour, won by Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing). Next, he travels to Northern Ireland to induct Stephen Roche into the Giro d'Italia hall of fame. He explained, like any new person in a company, he wants to meet and know everyone at RCS Sport.
He helps Cycling Technical Manager Mauro Vegni with the big task ahead, the 2014 Giro d'Italia, May 9 to June 1. Also, he is developing a proposal on how to modify the organisation model for RCS Sport's other races, including Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico, Milan-San Remo and Il Lombardia.
"There are some things that can be changed and bettered," Bellino said. "We need to get the most out of [our races] for RCS Sport, which has a rich story. We are working to bring the value out of our events."
Former Giro d'Italia race director Michele Acquarone hits back at RCS Sport over sacking
Giro d'Italia organiser dismisses race director Michele Acquarone after financial investigation
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Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.
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