Giro d'Italia

Former Giro director Acquarone denies stealing from RCS Sport

The race organizer fired him this week over 13 million euros in missing funds

MILAN (VN) — Michele Acquarone, the now ex-Giro d’Italia race director, attacked RCS Mediagroup today at a press conference in Milan. He said that the Milan publishing house kept him in the dark in its fraud investigation into 13 million euros that went missing.

“Over two months, it can only make one announcement? It blamed me, cut me off, removed my computer and took my telephone. They’ve ruined my reputation,” Acquarone said. “I’ve done everything according to the books in my years at RCS.”

The Italian from Sanremo started working in 1999 with RCS Sport, RCS Mediagroup’s sporting subsidiary. He became the director of the annual race through Italy in the summer of 2011, replacing Angelo Zomegnan. In the midst of an investigation, however, RCS Mediagroup suspended and fired Acquarone.

It has yet to make an official announcement but made its decision Tuesday. Acquarone wanted to tell his story today.

“It’s been two months of isolation,” he added. “I’ve been linked and accused of taking the money.”

Milano Finanza reported at the start of October that RCS Mediagroup began its investigation. It reported 13m euros in missing funds and the suspensions of Acquarone and media relations director Matteo Pastore. Administrative director Laura Bertinotti quit and Catano switched departments at that time.

RCS released a statement in October saying that it handed the investigation over to outside experts and that it replaced chairman Flavio Biondi with Raimondo Zanaboni. Silence followed.

Acquarone contacted VeloNews on Friday and said he would speak this week. RCS likely had already made its decision, which made its way to the press Tuesday: Giro boss Acquarone fired. In addition to Acquarone, it dismissed Catano.

“I feel like a scapegoat for how the news came out. I think the facts will tell the story but for now, I feel like a scapegoat,” Acquarone added. He denied taking any money. “I’ve not taken a euro extra over my salary.”

A criminal investigation will but RCS has kept details of this secret. In this period, it communicated with Acquarone twice, both times with a registered letter: once suspending him and the second time firing him.

On Sunday, the Tutto Bici website reported that RCS is leading toward appointing Paolo Bellino as the Giro’s sixth director. The Italian from Piedmont is a former track and field athlete and currently serves as the Italian Athletics Federation’s secretary general.

Acquarone closed the shortest chapter, two and a half years, in Giro history. The Italian stage race began in 1909 with Armando Cougnet in charge and passed to Vincenzo Torriani, Carmine Castellano and Zomegnan, but it never had such a short-lived boss in 104 years.

He said that RCS Mediagroup’s actions over the last two months ruins his reputation and makes his next step difficult. “I worked well in RCS for 14 years, five years on the sporting side. I hope that has value. What matters more, those five years or these two months? I know I’ll have to start from zero.”

Following his press conference, Acquarone issued a press release. The full text is presented here.

With deep regret I inform you that my relationship with RCS is over. 

The decision was taken unilaterally by RCS and I simply have to take note of it. 

Similarly I take note that yesterday, after convening this press conference, the news of my dismissal was widespread but, even today, after two months since my publicly disclosed interim suspension and of the internal and external inquiry, RCS has not yet provided any additional information on facts and responsibilities. 

This make the damage caused to my image and my reputation even more clear and serious, by combining my name to the alleged multimillionaire shortage found out in RCS. 

Everyone knows that I have always worked with the greatest effort and with good results and, in the years of my direction, RCS Sport has gained prestige and consideration in the sporting community in Italy and abroad. 

Therefore, I really do not know the reasons for which RCS wanted to find in me the scapegoat for a situation that has now become extremely delicate and serious, how the persisting deafening silence of the Group suggests. 

I totally trust in the criminal investigation underway and in the incoming labor lawsuit to prove my non-involvement in the offenses committed in RCS. As far as I’m concerned I will do my best to help the competent authorities to shine a light on all responsibilities, including those linked to the serious and groundless defamation against me. 

Despite my bitterness for such an end of the relationship with RS, I will always remain emotionally attached to Giro d’Italia and its fans. 
Today, Giro d’Italia is one of the national top excellence all over the world and I am proud of all the work I have done to consolidate this prestigious goal. 

Looking to the future, I feel my strengths, my enthusiasm and the results abtained are stronger than any deformation, and, after two months in a limbo, I am looking forward to putting me on the line again, hoping to find a real exciting project. Anybody I met knows I have ideas and, overall, I have the right determination to realize them.