- Category : Business
- Type : GP
- Profile : 3/5 - Martyr / Heretic
- Definition : Single
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Unexpected 3
Bernard Charles "Bernie" Ecclestone (born 28 October 1930 near Bungay, Suffolk, England) is the president and CEO of Formula One Management and Formula One Administration, and owns a stake in Alpha Prema, the parent company of the Formula One Group of companies. As such, he is generally considered the primary authority in Formula One racing. He is most commonly addressed in tabloid journalism as "F1 Supremo". His early involvement in the sport was as a competitor and then as a manager of drivers Stuart Lewis-Evans and Jochen Rindt. In 1972 he bought the Brabham team, which he ran for fifteen years. As a team owner he became a member of the Formula One Constructors Association. His control of the sport, which grew from his pioneering the sale of television rights in the late 1970s, is chiefly financial, but under the terms of the Concorde Agreement he and his companies also manage the administration, setup and logistics of each Formula One grand prix. Ecclestone attempted to compete in two Grand Prix races during the 1958 season but failed to qualify for either of them.
Ecclestone was born in St Peter South Elmham, a small hamlet three miles south of Bungay, Suffolk. Shortly thereafter his family moved to Bexleyheath, Kent, now a part of Greater London, and Ecclestone left school at the age of 16 to work at the local gasworks, and to pursue his hobby of motorcycles. 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 only drove a limited number of races, mainly at his local circuit, Brands Hatch but achieved a number of good placings and an occasional win. His aspirations took a knock when he collided with Bill Whitehouse and landed in the car park on the outside of the track. Eventually, commercial pressures and the risks persuaded him to retire from the cockpit.
After his accident, Ecclestone temporarily left racing to make a number of 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 the assets of the F1 Connaught team, whose drivers included Lewis-Evans, Roy Salvadori, Archie Scott Brown, and Ivor Bueb. Ecclestone even attempted, unsuccessfully, to qualify a car himself at Monaco in 1958. He continued to manage Lewis-Evans when he moved to the Vanwall team; Salvadori moved on to manage the Cooper team. Lewis-Evans suffered severe burns when his engine exploded at the Moroccan Grand Prix and succumbed to his injuries six days later; Ecclestone was rather shaken up and once again retired from racing.
Soon enough, however, his friendship with Salvadori led to his becoming manager of driver Jochen Rindt and a partial owner of Rindt's Formula 2 team, Lotus (whose other driver was Graham Hill). Rindt, on his way to the 1970 World Championship, died in a crash at the Monza circuit, though he was awarded the championship posthumously. In early 1972, Ecclestone purchased the Brabham team from Ron Tauranac and began his decades-long advocacy for team control of F1, forming the Formula One Constructors Association with Frank Williams, Colin Chapman, Teddy Mayer, Ken Tyrrell, and Max Mosley. Hereabouts arose the continuing question of television rights.
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. Colin Seeley was briefly brought in against Tauranac's wishes to assist in design and management.
Ecclestone and Tauranac were both dominant personalities and the Australian left Brabham early in the 1972 season. The team achieved little during 1972, as Ecclestone moulded the team to fit his vision of a Formula One team. He abandoned the highly successful customer car production business established by Jack Brabham and Tauranac - reasoning that to compete at the very front in Formula One you must concentrate all of your resources there. For the 1973 season, Ecclestone promoted Gordon Murray to chief designer. The young South African produced the triangular cross-section BT42, the first of a series of Ford powered cars with which the Brabham team would take several victories in 1974 and 1975.
Despite the increasing success of Murray’s nimble Ford-powered cars, Ecclestone signed a deal with Alfa Romeo to use their powerful but heavy flat-12 engine from the 1976 season. Although this was financially beneficial, the new BT45s were unreliable and the Alfa engines rendered them significantly overweight. The 1976 and 1977 seasons saw Brabham fall towards the back of the field again, before winning two races again in the 1978 season when Ecclestone signed the Austrian double world champion Niki Lauda, intrigued by Murray's radical BT46 design.
The Brabham-Alfa era ended in 1979, the team's first season with the up-and-coming young Brazilian Nelson Piquet when Alfa Romeo started testing their own Formula One car during this season. This prompted Ecclestone to revert to Cosworth DFV engines - a move his designer described as "like having a holiday".
Brabham had tested a car powered by a BMW turbo engine in the summer of 1981, and 1982's new BT50 was powered by BMW's turbocharged 4-cylinder M10. Brabham continued to run the Ford-powered BT49D in the early part of the season while reliability and driveability issues were sorted out by BMW and their technical partner, Bosch. Ecclestone and BMW came close to splitting before the turbo car duly took its first win at the 1982 Canadian Grand Prix but the partnership took the first turbo-powered world championship in 1983.
The team continued to be competitive until 1985. At the end of the year, Nelson Piquet who had formed a close and long lasting relationship with Ecclestone and the team, left after seven years. He was unhappy with the money that Ecclestone was willing to offer him and went to Williams where he would win his third championship. The following year, Murray, who since 1973 had designed cars that had scored 22 GP wins, left Brabham to join McLaren. Brabham continued under Ecclestone’s leadership to the end of the 1987 season, in which the team scored only eight points. BMW withdrew from Formula One after the 1987 season. Ecclestone, meanwhile, was becoming increasing involved with his roles at FISA and the Formula One Constructors' Association (FOCA), in particular with negotiating the sport's television rights. Having bought the team from Ron Tauranac for approximately $120,000 at the end of 1971, Ecclestone eventually sold it for over $5 million to a Swiss businessman, Joachim Luhti.
Main article: FISA-FOCA war
Ecclestone became chief executive of FOCA in 1978 with Mosley as his legal advisor; together, they negotiated a series of legal issues with the FIA and Jean-Marie Balestre, culminating in Ecclestone's famous coup, his securing the right for FOCA to negotiate television contracts for the Grands Prix. For this purpose Ecclestone established Formula One Promotions and Administration, giving 47% of television revenues to teams, 30% to the FIA, and 23% to FOPA (i.e. Ecclestone himself); in return, FOPA put up the prize money - grand prix could literally be translated from French to "big prize".
Television rights shuffled between Ecclestone's companies, teams, and the FIA in the late 1990s, but Ecclestone emerged on top again in 1997 when he negotiated the present Concorde Agreement: in exchange for annual payments, he maintains the TV rights. The contract with the various teams is to expire on the last day of 2007, and that with the FIA on the last day of 2012.
Despite heart surgery and triple coronary bypass in 1999, Ecclestone has remained as energetic as always in promoting his own business interests. In the late 1990s he reduced his share in SLEC Holdings (owner of the various F1 managing firms) to 25%, though despite his minority share he retained complete control of the companies. Also in 1999, Terry Lovell published a biography of Ecclestone, Bernie's Game: Inside the Formula One World of Bernie Ecclestone (ISBN 1-84358-086-1). In April 2000 Ecclestone sold International Sportsworld Communicators to David Richards. ISC owns the commercial rights for the World Rally Championship.
Ecclestone came under fire in October 2004 when he and British Racing Drivers' Club president Jackie Stewart were unable to come to terms regarding the future British Grand Prix, causing the race to be dropped from the 2005 provisional season calendar. However, when the heads of the ten teams met and agreed on a series of cost-cuts later in the month, the race was again added to the calendar, and a contract on December 9 guaranteed its continuation for five years. In mid-November 2004, the three banks who comprise Speed Investments, which owns a 75% share in SLEC, which in turn controls Formula One - Bayerische Landesbank, J.P. Morgan Chase, and Lehman Brothers - sued Ecclestone for more control over the sport, prompting speculation that Ecclestone might altogether lose the control he has maintained for more than thirty years. A two-day hearing began on November 23, but after the proceedings had ended the following day, Justice Andrew Park announced his intention to reserve ruling for several weeks. On December 6, 2004, Park read his verdict, stating that "In judgment it is clear that Speed's contentions are correct and should therefore make the declarations which it requests." However, Ecclestone insisted that the verdict - seen almost universally as a legal blow to his control of Formula One - would mean "nothing at all". He stated his intention to appeal the decision. The following day, at a meeting of team bosses at Heathrow Airport in London, Ecclestone offered the teams a total of £260,000,000 over three years in return for unanimous renewal of the Concorde Agreement, which expires in 2008. Two weeks later, Gerhard Gibkowsky, a board member of Bayerische Landesbank and the chairman of SLEC, stated that the banks had no intention to remove Ecclestone from his position of control.
Ecclestone was a victim of theft in March 2005: two wheels were stolen from his car while it was parked outside his London home. The car, a brand new Mercedes-Benz CLS55 AMG, was said to be the first of its kind in Britain. On Friday, June 17, 2005, Ecclestone made American headlines with his reply to a question about Danica Patrick's fourth-place finish at the Indianapolis 500, during an interview with Indianapolis television station WRTV: "She did a good job, didn't she? Super. Didn't think she'd be able to make it like that. You know, I've got one of these wonderful ideas that women should be all dressed in white like all the other domestic appliances." (Following Danica Patrick's 2008 victory at Twin Ring Motegi, Ecclestone personally sent her a congratulatory letter). Two days later, Ecclestone saw 14 of 20 cars refuse to race in the 2005 United States Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The seven teams who refused to participate, stating concern over the safety of their Michelin tyres, requested rule changes and/or a change to the track configuration. Despite a series of meetings between Ecclestone, Max Mosley, and the team principals, no compromise was reached by race time, and Ecclestone became an object of the public's frustration at the resultant six-car race. Despite his not having caused the problem, fans and journalists blamed him for failing to take control and enforce a solution, given the position of power in which he had placed himself.
On November 25, 2005 CVC Capital Partners announced it was to purchase both the Ecclestone shares of the Formula One Group (25% of SLEC) and Bayerische Landesbank's 48% share (held through Speed Investments). This left Alpha Prema owning 71.65% of the Formula One group. Ecclestone used the proceeds of this sale to purchase a stake in this new company (the exact ratio of the CVC/Ecclestone shareholding is not yet known). On December 6 Alpha Prema acquired JP Morgan's share of SLEC to increase its ownership of Formula One to 86%, the remaining 14% is held by Lehman Brothers. On March 21 2006 the EU competition authorities approved the transaction subject to CVC selling Dorna, which controls the rights to MotoGP. CVC announced the completion of the transaction on March 28. CVC acquired Lehman Brothers share at the end of March 2006. On July 21, 2007 Bernie Ecclestone announced in the media that he would be open to discuss the purchase of Arsenal Football Club. As a close friend to former Director of Arsenal David Dein, it is thought that the current board of the North London based football club would prefer to sell to a British party, this after American based investment company KSE headed by "Silent" Stan Kroenke are thought to be preparing a £650 million takeover bid for Arsenal Holdings PLC.
After the loss of Silverstone as the venue for the British Grand Prix in 2008, Ecclestone came under fire from several high-profile names for his handling of Formula One's revenues. Damon Hill blamed Formula One Management as a key factor in the loss of the event: "There's always been the question of the FOM fee, and ultimately that is the deciding factor. To quote Bernie, he once said: 'You can have anything you like, as long as you pay too much for it,' but we can't pay too much for something... The problem is money goes out and away. There's a question whether that money even returns to Formula One." Flavio Briatore also criticized FOM: "Nowadays Ecclestone takes 50% of all revenues, but we are supposed to be able to reduce our costs by 50%".
Queens Park Rangers Football Club
On September 3, 2007 it was announced that Bernie Ecclestone (and Flavio Briatore) had bought Queens Park Rangers (QPR) Football Club. In December 2007, they were joined as co-owners of QPR by multi-billionaire Lakshmi Mittal, the 4th richest person in the world, who bought 20% of the club.
Labour Party controversy
In 1997 Ecclestone was involved in a political controversy over the Labour Party's policy on tobacco sponsorship.
Labour had pledged to ban tobacco advertising in its manifesto ahead of its 1997 General Election victory, supporting a proposed European Union Directive banning tobacco advertising and sponsorship. At this time all leading Formula One Teams carried significant branding from tobacco brands such as Rothmans, Benson and Hedges, West, Marlboro and Mild Seven. The Labour Party's stance on banning tobacco advertising was reinforced following the election by forceful statements from the Health Secretary Frank Dobson and Minister for Public Health Tessa Jowell. Ecclestone appealed 'over Jowell's head' to Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair's chief of staff, who arranged a meeting with Blair. Ecclestone and Mosley, both Labour Party donors, met Blair on 16 October 1997, where Mosley argued:
"Motor racing was a world class industry which put Britain at the hi-tech edge. Deprived of tobacco money, Formula One would move abroad at the loss of 50,000 jobs, 150,000 part-time jobs and £900 million of exports."
On 4 November the "fiercly anti-tobacco Jowell" argued in Brussels for an exemption for Formula One. Media attention initially focused on Labour bending its principles for a "glamour sport" and on the "false trail" of Jowell's husband's links to Benetton. On 6 November correspondents from three newspapers inquired whether Labour had received any donations from Ecclestone; he had donated £1 million in January 1997. On 11 November Labour promised to return the money on the advice of Sir Patrick Neill. On 17 November Blair apologised for his government's mishandling of the affair and stated "the decision to exempt Formula One from tobacco sponsorship was taken two weeks later. It was in response to fears that Britain might lose the industry overseas to Asian countries who were bidding for it."
The Sunday Times Rich List of 2003 ranked Ecclestone the 3rd richest person in the United Kingdom, with an estimated fortune of £2,400m. He fell to eighth place in 2004's Sunday Times Rich List, and by 2006 the rich list placed him 13th with an estimated net worth of £2,243m. Currently in the 2008's Sunday Times Rich List he ranks as the 24th richest person in the United Kingdom, with an estimated fortune of £2,400m.
In early 2004 he sold one of his London residences (Kensington Palace Gardens), never having lived in it, to steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal for £57.1 million, making it the most expensive house ever sold.
Ecclestone is married to Slavica Ecclestone, née Slavica Radi?. Radi? was born in the town of Rijeka in Croatia in the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia in 1958. She is a 6'2" (1.88 m) former Armani model who is 28 years his junior, and 11.5 inches (29 cm) taller than her husband). The couple have two daughters, Tamara Ecclestone (born 1984) and Petra Ecclestone (born 1988).