rediff.com

NewsApp (Free)

Read news as it happens
Download NewsApp

Available on  

Rediff News  All News 
Rediff.com  » Sports » Ecclestone never far from F1 headlines

Ecclestone never far from F1 headlines

Last updated on: April 21, 2012 09:40 IST

Ecclestone never far from F1 headlines

     Next

Next

Bernie Ecclestone has had the hauntingly echoing theme tune from 'The Good, the Bad and the Ugly' as the ringtone on his mobile phone for some years now.

Ennio Morricone's score for the classic 1960s Italian Spaghetti Western is just right for Formula One's stonefaced "Little Big Man" and his endless quest for a few dollars more.

Ecclestone - softly spoken but with the cold glint of determination in his eye - has called the shots and cracked the whip in the glamour sport for decades, making himself and his family billions along the way as well as a reputation as one of the most extraordinary deal makers in any walk of life.

Feted by some as a force for good and hated by others for much that is bad about modern Formula One, majority owned by CVC Capital Partners, Ecclestone has never shied away from controversy even when things turn ugly.

His presence at this weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix, a controversial race proceeding against a backdrop of rights protests and the distant whiff of teargas and petrol bombs as local youths and anti-government activists clash with police, has cast him centre stage once again.


Image: Bernie Ecclestone
Photographs: Getty Images

     Next

Think big

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

The provocative assertion that the teams are all happy to be there, and that everything is quiet in the troubled kingdom, have caused his picture to be burned in some of the more restive quarters of Manama.

"I can assure you that I am not happy, my family is not happy," Khadija al-Mousawi, whose jailed rights activist husband Abdulhadi al-Khawaja has been on hunger strike for more than two months, told Reuters on Wednesday.

Small in stature, the son of a North Sea trawlerman has always thought big. Even his critics recognise that his vision has transformed the sport from a world of gentleman racers and oily-overalled 'garagistes' chasing comparative pittances in prize money into a multi billion dollar enterprise.

In those dim and distant days, Ecclestone would even collect the cash in a bag and walk it to the nearest bank. Now, CVC are planning a roughly $1.5 billion public listing of part of the business in Singapore.

Known simply as Bernie, or just the 'Mr E' written on the car pass that allows his sleek Mercedes limousine access to the F1 paddock inner sanctum, the 81-year-old British billionaire is rarely out of the news.


Image: Bernie Ecclestone
Photographs: Reuters

Prev     Next

Ecclestone has taken F1 to lucrative new markets

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

To the Bahrain royal family, and rulers elsewhere, the bespectacled mop-topped Andy Warhol-lookalike in pressed blue jeans and starched white shirt is to be admired as the man who has stood firm despite a wave of global opposition. If Bernie shakes on a deal, he delivers.

In the last decade Ecclestone has taken Formula One to lucrative new markets in Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, China, India, South Korea and Singapore at the expense of old and traditional venues in Europe. Russia will make a debut in 2014 when the United States is also due to have two races.

The money has come rolling in, multiplied by amazing deals that have seen him sell Formula One several times over while retaining effective control.

In 1997 it was revealed that Ecclestone had given Britain's then-ruling Labour Party a one million pounddonation before Formula One was granted exemption from a proposed ban on tobacco sponsorship. In a double bonus, Labour gave him his money back.


Image: Bernie Ecclestone, Sachin Tendulkar, Vijay Mallya, Shah Rukh Khan and Gulshan Grover
Photographs: Getty Images

Prev     Next

Heart bypass

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

In his London office, in the moneyed Knightsbridge area and a short walk from the Armani store where he likes to lunch, Ecclestone has a sculpture of a pile of $100 bills.

With no evident successor lined up for a ringmaster who went through a triple heart bypass in 1999 ("I recommend everybody has one," he said later), Ecclestone still puts in punishing days and has no intention of letting go.

As he quipped when he turned 80: "Retire? Why? I need the money, I can't afford to retire."

By any standards, he has been a success -- from selling buns at a mark-up to schoolmates to making his first fortune trading motorcycles in fuel-starved post-war Britain and then making a mint in Formula One.

Asked when he might publish an autobiography, he replied: "The morning after I die. And the first 12 copies go to the Inland Revenue".

One of the advantages of old age, suggested the man who has had to make court appearances in Germany in connection with the corruption trial of a former business associate, was that the fear of life imprisonment was no longer what it was.


Image: Bernie Ecclestone
Photographs: Getty Images

Prev     Next

'Women drivers should be dressed in white'

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

When he was mugged and robbed of his watch in central London in 2010, his reaction was to send a photograph of his battered face to the watchmaker - an F1 partner - for them to use for free in an advert.

He has said women drivers should be dressed in white "like the other domestic appliances" and shocked many in 1993, the year before triple champion Ayrton Senna died at Imola, when he said there were too many old drivers around and spoke of the deadly days of old as a "sort of natural culling".

Most recently he has replied to repeated questions about his planned whereabouts this weekend by saying he will not be in Bahrain because it is "far too dangerous".

He will, but whether he stays for the race itself on Sunday remains to be seen.

Job done, Ecclestone usually heads for exit as soon as the grid walk is over and the race IS under way. He been known to leave even earlier, watching it instead on television over Sunday lunch at home.


Image: Danica Patrick
Photographs: Getty Images

Prev     Next

Paddock dictator

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Ecclestone, who got into hot water a couple of years ago when he suggested Adolf Hitler was a man "who got things done", is by his own admission a dictator - a man who does a deal on a handshake, has a fondness for the office shredder and an aversion to email and written contracts.

He surrounds himself with a small group of deeply loyal and well-remunerated employees, many of them dating back to the days when he owned the Brabham team in the 1970s and 80s, who know exactly what makes him tick.

"I don't think democracy is the way to run anything," he once said. "Whether it's a company or anything, you need someone who is going to turn the lights on and off."

Interviews and conversations, at least around the grey paddock bus with blacked-out windows that serves as his control centre during the European races, tend to be quick and to the point.

There is no time for small talk or hesitation but Ecclestone always provides a headline.

Over the years he has suggested scrapping the points system in favour of Olympic-style medals and using sprinklers to make fake rain to liven up proceedings. He has also successfully pushed for the first night race in Singapore and taken the sport to India, where bullock carts and elephants mix with the road traffic and car ownership is beyond the reach of most.


Image: Bernie Ecclestone, Sebastian Vettel
Photographs: Getty Images

Prev     Next

Ecclestone failed to qualify for the 1957 British Grand Prix

Prev     More
Prev

More

Ecclestone is also passionate about Formula One, beyond mere business, with old friends such as Austrian triple champion Niki Lauda among the regulars at his paddock hospitality unit.

He tried his hand at racing, failing to qualify for the 1957 British Grand Prix with the Connaught team that he had bought, and then turned his hand to management.

He turned his back on the sport after his Welsh driver Stuart Lewis-Evans died in a fiery crash at the 1958 Moroccan Grand Prix but returned as manager to Austrian Jochen Rindt, who became a close friend.

Rindt died at Monza in 1970 and remains the only posthumous F1 champion. Ecclestone was one of the first on the scene, picking up the driver's battered helmet and a solitary shoe. He has picked up a lot more baggage down the road since then.


Photographs: Getty Images

Prev     More
Source:
© Copyright 2013 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.