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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Bernie Ecclestone Now Owns QPR - Buying Out Flavio Briatore....Warnock Talks re QPR and Briatore, Ecclestone & Bhatia


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Some questions may remain over ownership of Loftus Road

Mirror/Oliver Holt

Ecclestone named new owner of QPR

Formula One billionaire Bernie Ecclestone is the new owner of Queens Park Rangers.

Ecclestone, previously a minority shareholder, has bought out Flavio Briatore and set his sights on helping boss Neil Warnock clinch promotion to the Premier League.

Eighty year old Ecclestone, still recovering from being mugged outside his Hyde Park offices a fortnight ago, now owns just over 60% of the club, who are top of the Championship.

It is believed that Briatore still retains a nominal holding in the club and last night Ecclestone moved immediately to quell fears he would interfere in the fine work Warnock is doing.

“I now own about 62% of the club,” Ecclestone said, “and I am here mainly to support what Neil is doing.

“Neil’s the one who tells them how to kick the ball and now we’ll see if we can get into the Premier League.

“I’m not thinking about competing with Manchester United or Arsenal. We will just see what happens.

“I have not bought the club because I want to see my name in the papers. I don’t need that. It is just something that I enjoy doing.”

QPR are four points clear at the top of the Championship but face a crunch clash with form team Leeds United at Elland Road tomorrow - Mirror

MIRROR/OLIVER HOLT - Warnock enjoying new lease of life in London

Neil Warnock, bluff Yorkshireman, renowned ranter and expert at turning a sow’s ear into a silk purse, is sitting in a swanky Italian restaurant in Knightsbridge.

His wife, Sharon, is shopping with diminished funds across the road at Harrods with their daughter, Amy.

Sharon told Warnock that every time he got fined for screaming at a linesman or raging at a referee, he had to match the fine and give it to her to spend.

She was expecting a bonanza. But the Queens Park Rangers manager has not fallen foul of the authorities since.

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Warnock looks around contentedly. There are Andy Warhol prints of Marilyn Monroe on one of the walls.

On another, there’s a picture of Al Pacino looking particularly menacing in a poster for The Godfather.

When the wine arrives, the waiter pours and waits for Warnock to taste it. “I don’t need to taste it,” Warnock says. “I know it’ll be all right in this place.”

When his fish comes, he asks for it to be left on the bone. “Don’t eat it so fast then, do you,” he says.

And then the happiest damn northerner in London town begins to talk about how the capital has given him a new lease of life.

He is about to become a granddad for the first time but he feels like a big kid again. He’s 62 going on 32.

There’s enough energy pouring out of him to get him taxed for emissions. If Boris Johnson could see the fuel he’s burning, he’d charge him for entering the Congestion Zone.

No wonder Warnock’s happy. In the autumn of his career, his reputation has never been higher.

He says it’s all down to London. He goes to West End shows and rides his mountain bike round Richmond Park.

He’s so full of the joys of life that when he came across a stag in a remote area of the park recently, he tried to engage it in conversation.

“I suddenly saw this magnificent creature and I couldn’t believe it when he didn’t run off,” Warnock says.

“So I started talking to him about our last game. I said ‘bloody hell, we’ve scored some good goals at QPR this season’.

“I shouted to him ‘we’ve had a bloody great time, what about you?’. His head’s gone up and he was looking at me and you could see him thinking ‘what the f*** are you talking about’.

“I got too carried away in the end and went too close and he backed away and disappeared into the bracken. He must have thought I was a right nutter.”

Living among the bright lights has reinvigorated him. Managing in the south has brought him new respect.

Three years ago, he was consumed with bitterness over the injustices that surrounded his Sheffield United side’s relegation from the Premier League.

But then Simon Jordan offered him the manager’s job at Crystal Palace and Warnock won plaudits for the brilliant job he did under severe financial restrictions.

When he joined QPR nine months ago, he was their fifth manager of the season and the club were only three points above the relegation zone. †

But Warnock has brought order where there was anarchy and QPR went 19 games unbeaten from the start of this campaign, only losing for the first time against Watford last Friday.

They travel to Elland Road tomorrow for the clash with Leeds United four points clear of Cardiff at the top of the table and with a game in hand.

They are favourites for promotion, odds-on to give Warnock a chance to heal the wound that has festered since Sheffield went down and fulfil his ambition of taking a club up to the Premier League and keeping them there.

“I wish I had come to London sooner,” Warnock says. “It has almost been like a drug for me.

“I honestly feel at times that I am on a high. I can go anywhere in London now. The cabbies are unbelievable. I love the cabbies.

“Every cab I get in, they all support a different team. They will all tell me about their problems and my problems and this referee and that referee.

“I love the life, too. I didn’t want to show my face for a couple of days after we lost to Watford but we went to The Jersey Boys on Sunday. That is music, that.

He is quite the modern London media luvvie now, too. He has a column in The Independent and his own show on TalkSport.

He has built a fine side at Loftus Road and is happy to concede that experience taught him he had to find room for the sublime talent that is Adel Taarabt.

So London is even turning the hardest taskmaster in football into a raving liberal. Well almost.

Warnock has a rule that no one is allowed to pass to the Moroccan if he is in QPR’s half but apart from that, he gives him free rein.

“I would never have wanted a Taarabt in the past,” he says. “I would have been pulling my bloody hair out.

“But I see now, as I go higher, you have to have ability to win you games. And you can work hard all day, but you need the spark, something that is different. Taarabt would win you games in any league in the world.”

Perhaps his greatest achievement has been bringing harmony to the relationship between the manager and the Loftus Road boardroom.

He does not fear interference from part-owner Flavio Briatore. Far from it. He says he relishes talking to him.

“For a start, when you have gone 19 games without defeat, there is not a lot anyone can say really is there,” Warnock says.

“I work for Amit Bhatia, who I trust and the others are fans really. Flavio is a big fan really. It is just that he is portrayed in the wrong way.

“He said that thing about having always dreamed of having Marcello Lippi as manager if we got to the Premier League.

“The press went mad about that and so Flavio rings me up and apologises and says ‘I didn’t say it like that’.

“I know he wouldn’t have meant it like that. I suppose when you are younger, you would react to that but I was fine.

“I said I just couldn’t see it. I said I couldn’t see Lippi wanting to manage the reserve team at Loftus Road. That’s how you fob it off.

“Actually, Amit, Flavio, Bernie Ecclestone and the chairman, Gianni Paladini, have been ever so supportive.

“Flavio will tell me what he thinks. He will watch the game and wonder why we didn’t play wide or tell me that he thinks a referee was bought.

“I don’t regard that as interference. It is partly excitement for me now with your Briatores and your Ecclestones.

“I know once you whet people’s appetite like them, they will support you more. So if we could get up, they would help me to make my job easier to stay up which is what I want to do before I pack in.”

Pack in? Not for a while yet, surely. Not while he’s caught in the neon glare, not while the city beckons, not while Sir Alex, Arsene and Harry await next season, not while life is so rich and there are stags to converse with in Richmond Park. Mirror

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