Five different drivers took the checkered flag during the Formula One season last year. The winning cars all had one thing in common -- brakes or clutches supplied by Italian auto-parts maker Brembo SpA.
The Bergamo-based company established its foothold in the racing world 40 years ago. Since then, Brembo has expanded its customer base by supplying braking systems for car manufacturers such as Ferrari SpA and Porsche SE, a business that has made the company’s chairman, Alberto Bombassei, a billionaire.
“One of Brembo’s greatest fortunes has been the opportunity to enter the world of racing in 1975, when the company started to supply Ferrari in Formula One,” Bombassei said in a Jan. 17 e-mail. “This has enabled Brembo over the years to test on the track new technological solutions, which over time have been transferred to road cars and bikes.”
Demand for the vehicles has helped Brembo’s share price double in the last year. Revenue increased 11 percent to 1.4 billion euros ($1.8 billion) in 2012.
Bombassei controls 53.5 percent of Brembo and has a net worth of $1.2 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He has never appeared on an international wealth ranking.
The billionaire’s stake in the brake manufacturer is controlled through the family’s holding company, Nuova Fourb Srl, whose shares are held in equal proportion under the names of Bombassei’s two children, according to Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.
The stake is credited to Bombassei because the 73-year-old and his wife still receive the income from 80 percent of the shares. As patriarch and chairman, the billionaire also retains effective control of the family business.
“The fact that Brembo is a family business gives strength to the company,” Bombassei said. “I don’t have plans to reduce my involvement, or to lose control of the company.”
He declined to comment on his net worth.
Brembo was founded by Bombassei’s father, Emilio, and Italo Breda in 1961, when the partners established a workshop making spare parts for vehicles. Their breakthrough came in 1975, when Enzo Ferrari asked the company to equip his F1 racing cars. Brembo will outfit seven of the 11 Formula One teams racing in the 2014 season.
Five years later, the company developed an aluminum brake caliper that was adopted by manufacturers like Porsche, Mercedes and BMW. It also helped pioneer carbon ceramic discs, which have been a staple of the company since 2002.
“The business is doing well thanks to the company’s focus on high-end road cars, a sector growing three times faster than the auto supplier market in general,” said Monica Bosio, a Milan-based analyst at Banca IMI SpA.
The Bloomberg Billionaires Index takes measure of the world’s wealthiest people based on market and economic changes and Bloomberg News reporting. Each net worth figure is updated every business day at 5:30 p.m. in New York and listed in U.S. dollars.