Bernie Ecclestone And His Race Towards Greatness
Bernie Ecclestone was born in St Peter South Elmham on October 28, 1930 as the son of a fisherman, but he would later become one of the most important figures in Formula 1 Racing. Nowadays, Bernie is the president and CEO of Formula One Management and Formula One Administration, but he first made contact with the world of professional racing as a driver.
After the end of World War II, he partnered up with Fred Compton and formed the Compton & Ecclestone motorcycle dealership. Ecclestone had his first taste of racing in 1949, when he drove in the 500cc category Formula 3 Series. He participated in a limited number of races, most of them at his local Brands Hatch circuits, but he retired from the activity after several accidents and decided to focus on his business career. He made numerous investments in real estate and dabbled in loan financing, but he eventually returned to the racing scene in 1957 while managing a famous driver named Stuart Lewis-Evans. He bought 2 chassis from the Connaught F1 team and attempted to qualify himself at Monaco in 1958 but was not successful. Bernie was a good friend with Roy Francesco Salvadori, who was a British motor racing driver and manager. As Ecclestone moved on to the Vanwall team, Salvadori was managing the Cooper team and things appeared to be working smoothly for a while until Lewis Evans suffered a serious accident as his engine exploded during the 1958 Moroccan Grand Prix. Unfortunately, Lewis died just 6 days after the accident, which took a serious toll on Bernie and caused him to retire from racing once again.
During the 1970s, Ecclestone made another appearance in F1 when he became the manager of Jochen Ridnt as well as the partial owner of the 1970 Lotus Formula 2 team. In 1971, Bernie was approached by the owner of the Brabham team, Ron Tauranac, who ended up selling his entire team to him for approximately $120,000. However, since both Bernie and Tauranac were dominant individuals, Tauranac left the team during the 1972 season, and Bernie could finally lead the team according to his own vision. It wasn’t until 1974 and 1975 that the team achieved several victories thanks to Gordon Murray’s triangular cross-section BT42 Ford-powered cars.
As Bernie agreed to replace the Ford powertrains on these nimble vehicles with heavy flat-12 engines from Alfa Romeo, the team fell behind during the 1976 and 1977 seasons since the cars were significantly heavier than before. In 1978, the team won 2 races thanks to Austrian double world champion Nicki Lauda and Murray’s impressive BT46 design. Over the next few years, Ecclestone and the Brabham team collaborated extensively with Nelson Piquet, who won in 1981 and 1983. After 7 years of Brabham, Piquet decided to leave the team because he was unsatisfied with his salary. Murray also left the following year to work for McLaren, and the team remained under Ecclestone’s leadership until the end of the 1987 season, when it scored just 8 points. Bernie eventually sold Brabham to a Swiss businessman named Joachim Luthi for $5 million.
While he was managing the Brabham team, Ecclestone founded the Formula One Constructors Association in 1974 in collaboration with Max Mosley, Ken Tyrrell, Frank Williams, Colin Chapman and Teddy Mayer. Bernie became chief executive of the association in 1978 and chose Mosley to be his legal advisor, but he eventually plotted a coup that would ensure him complete rights regarding FOCA’s negotiations of TV contracts for the Grand Prix. He then established the Formula One Promotions and Administration, and decided to give 47% of TV revenues to teams, 30% to the FIA and 23% to FOPA (himself). However, FOPA would ensure the prize money for the Grand Prix. In 1997, Ecclestone negotiated the Concorde Agreement, which allowed him to keep his TV rights in exchange to a series of regular payments. This agreement expired in 2007, when Ecclestone and Flavio Briatore bought the Queen Park Rangers Football Club. In 2011, both of them sold their shares in the club to to Tony Fernandes.
Also in 2011, Ecclestone was ranked as the 4th richest person in the UK by the Forbes World’s Billionaires List, since he had a fortune of no less than $4.2 billion.
As far as his personal life is concerned, Bernie is often surrounded by scandal and controversy, mostly because of his not-so-kind remarks. For example, he once referred to women as “domestic appliances” and even admired Hitler for “being able to get things done”. Nonetheless, his career achievements and the fact that he steered Formula One in the right direction earned him a huge amount of respect, which is probably why he can get away with saying mostly anything. He was married to a former Armani model named Slavica, and he has 2 daughters named Tamara and Petra Ecclestone. Bernie Ecclestone is currently married to Fabiana Flosi.