Bernie Ecclestone was a car dealer, who became the giant of motor racing, amassing a £3.6billion fortune that has allowed him to live life in the fast lane with some of the world’s most glamorous women, most of whom towered over the 5ft 3in F1 boss. When his second marriage turned sour, he could afford a £594million divorce settlement with Slavica Ecclestone. His two socialite daughters from his second marriage too are living a luxurious life because of her father. Petra and Tamara are renowned for their style and spending spree. However, everything has to come to an end one day and this is what has happened with Bernie Ecclestone, the undisputed king of Formula 1.
After 40 years at the top of the sport, Ecclestone’s reign has ended with the takeover of Formula 1 by US company Liberty Media. Despite rumours that he would stay, Ecclestone has been replaced by Chase Carey, who had already been appointed chairman of F1 and will now also become chief executive. Ecclestone has been left with the largely honorary position of chairman emeritus. Liberty Media’s statement carried quotes from Ecclestone, who said: “I’m proud of the business that I built over the last 40 years and all that I have achieved with Formula 1, and would like to thank all of the promoters, teams, sponsors and television companies that I have worked with. I’m very pleased that the business has been acquired by Liberty and that it intends to invest in the future of F1. I am sure that Chase will execute his role in a way that will benefit the sport.” Ecclestone earlier told German magazine Auto, Motor and Sport he had been “deposed”.
Retired 2016 champion Nico Rosberg was the first of the sport’s big names to react on social media, tweeting: “Bernie, mega job! But a change has been overdue. Mr. Carey, all the best in making our sport awesome again.” The walking away from the sport that too forcibly won’t have any effect on his money as he has already made billions but he might miss the power. The loss of influence could hit him harder. He once said that he would never retire from F1 and will continue till his last breath but the fate had something else in store for him. Despite his billions, he has been very careful with his cash. Although he owns a yacht, a private jet and multiple homes, including a mansion in Chelsea, West London, the billionaire has always made sure that he stays grounded. His careful nature probably stems from his humble origins as the son of a trawlerman. Ecclestone was born in St Peter, South Elmham, a hamlet three miles south of Bungay, Suffolk. The son of a fisherman, he attended primary school in Wissett before the family moved to Danson Road, Bexleyheath, south east London, in 1938. Immediately after the end of World War II, Ecclestone went into business trading in spare parts for motorcycles, and formed the Compton & Ecclestone motorcycle dealership with Fred Compton. His first racing experience came in 1949 in the 500cc Formula 3 Series, acquiring a Cooper Mk V in 1951. He drove only a limited number of races, mainly at his local circuit, Brands Hatch, but achieved a number of good placings and an occasional win. He initially retired from racing following several accidents at Brands Hatch, intending to focus on his business interests.
A love for making money and doing business was what drove him through his career. He made a number of eventually lucrative investments in real estate and loan financing and to manage the Weekend Car Auctions firm. He returned to racing in 1957 as manager of driver Stuart Lewis-Evans, and purchased two chassis from the disbanded Connaught F1 team, whose driver line-up over the years had included Lewis-Evans, Roy Salvadori, Archie Scott Brown, and Ivor Bueb. During the 1971 season, Ecclestone was approached by Ron Tauranac, owner of the Brabham team, who was looking for a suitable business partner. Ecclestone made him an offer of £100,000 for the whole team, which Tauranac eventually accepted. The Australian stayed on as designer and to run the factory. This was the turning point in Bernie Ecclestone’s career. In 1978 he became chief executive of the Formula One Constructors’ Association and started to transform the sport into the multi-billion-pound industry it is today. The rest as they say is history. His private life has been dynamic too. In 1952, aged 21, he married first wife, telephone operator Ivy Bamford. They had a daughter, Debbie, now 61, but divorced in the 1960s. Ecclestone also had a 17-year relationship with Tuana Tan which ended in 1984 when Slavica (later his second wife) became pregnant. He was married to Slavica Ecclestone for 23 years. The couple have two daughters, Tamara Ecclestone (born 1984) and Petra Ecclestone (born 1988). The couple divorced in 2009. In April 2012, Ecclestone announced his engagement to 35-year-old Fabiana Flosi who was the Vice-President of Marketing for the Brazilian Grand Prix. She is 47 years his junior. The news of their marriage became public in 2012.
The self- proclaimed Donald Trump fan has been quite vocal in the field of politics as well. He doesn’t minced his words ever, no matter what the outcome was for him. He praised Hitler in 2009. “He was – in the way that he could command a lot of people – able to get things done.” The World Jewish Congress called for his resignation but there was no effect on him. In 1997, Ecclestone was involved in a political controversy over the British Labour Party’s policy on tobacco sponsorship. He gave the Labour Party a £1million donation. Ten months later, after Tony Blair got into power, the Government argued for Formula 1 to be made exempt from a new ban on tobacco advertising in sport. However, after lot of criticism, Blair had to apologize and return the donation. The former F1 supremo again landed in a problem in 2012. In one of the cases in Germany, the prosecutor and defendant told court that Ecclestone paid about $44 million to the former BayernLB Chief Risk Officer Gerhard Gribkowsky to get rid of the lender’s stake in Formula One in 2011. Defending himself, Ecclestone told prosecutors he paid Gribkowsky because he blackmailed him with telling UK tax authorities about a family trust controlled by Ecclestone’s former wife. Ecclestone has stated that he only paid the monies, as he feared Gerhard Gribkowsky had information about his finances that if made known to the Inland Revenue, would have been costly. A court in Munich ruled that Ecclestone would indeed be tried on bribery charges in Germany at the start of 2014. But the same court ruled that Ecclestone could pay a £60m settlement, without admitting guilt, to end the trial in August in 2014. Ecclestone is clearly a man who does it his way or no way at all. He is no more the boss of F1 but he will not be easily forgotten.