British businessman Bernie Ecclestone is considered as having had the greatest impact on Formula One, the top division of motor racing, throughout its existence. He founded and served as the first CEO of the Formula One Group, which oversees and administers the sport's commercial rights. Because of his dominance and influence over the sport, he is sometimes referred to as the "F1 Supremo" by the media and the fans.
On October 28, 1930, Bernie Ecclestone was born in Suffolk, England, in the village of St. Peter, South Elmham. He was the child of a housewife and a fisherman. He went to Wissett Primary School and Bexleyheath Secondary School. At the age of 16, he dropped out of school to work as a lab assistant at a nearby gasworks. In addition, he majored in chemistry at Woolwich Polytechnic and became passionate about motorbikes.
In the late 1940s, Ecclestone began his professional life as a motorcycle dealer and racer. Together with Fred Compton, he established a business trading motorcycle components. He also participated in a few of races, primarily at Brands Hatch, but had little success. In 1951, he made the transition to auto racing, and in 1958, he competed in two Formula 3 races but was disqualified from both of them. Then, he made the decision to concentrate on supervising other drivers, namely Stuart Lewis-Evans and Jochen Rindt.
Ecclestone acquired the Brabham squad, one of the top Formula One teams at the time, in 1972. With Nelson Piquet, he won two drivers' championships in 1981 and 1983 while managing the team for 15 years. He also joined the Formula One Constructors Association (FOCA), an organization that advocated for the interests of the teams. He quickly rose to the position of leader of FOCA and engaged in negotiations with the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), the sport's regulatory body, about the Formula One rules and regulations.
Ecclestone's greatest accomplishment was elevating Formula One from a specialized sport to a universal sensation. In order to do this, he bought the sport's commercial rights from the FIA in 1978 and sold them to international television networks. The Concorde Agreements, which he also drafted with the teams, outlined how the income and expenses of Formula One would be divided among them. Additionally, he was in charge of each Grand Prix's administration, preparation, and logistics, making sure that they were hosted in desirable and lucrative locales.
In order to oversee all facets of Formula One, Ecclestone established the Formula One Group in 1996. Over the years, he gave away the majority of his ownership in the company to other investors, although he continued to serve as its CEO until 2017. He was in charge of making several choices that defined the sport, including the addition of new circuits, the opening of new markets, the modification of technical rules, the securing of sponsors, and the advancement of drivers. He also dealt with several problems and difficulties, including claims of bribery, tax investigations, legal conflicts, political pressures, and safety concerns.
Ecclestone was succeeded as CEO of the Formula One Group by Chase Carey in 2017, following the $4.4 billion purchase of the organization by Liberty Media. From his appointment as chairman emeritus until 2020, Ecclestone served as the board's advisor. He continues to be active in various Formula One-related activities and still holds a tiny investment in the company.
Ecclestone has four kids and three previous marriages. Ivy Bamford was his first wife, whom he wed in 1952 and divorced in 1958. Deborah, their only child, was born. Slavica Radi, a former model from Croatia, was his second wife, whom he wed in 1985 and divorced in 2009. Tamara and Petra, their daughters, are well-known socialites and reality television personalities. He wed Brazilian marketing director Fabiana Flosi as his third spouse in 2012. Ace, their lone child, was conceived in 2020 when Ecclestone was 89 years old.
Ecclestone has a net worth of $2.9 billion, making him one of the wealthiest individuals in Britain. A home in London, a chalet in Switzerland, a farm in Brazil, and a boat in Monaco are just a few of the assets he owns abroad. Additionally, he collects automobiles, artwork, and memorabilia. He supports a number of philanthropic organizations and causes, including the Ecclestone Foundation, the Brain and Spine Foundation, and Great Ormond Street Hospital.
Bernie Ecclestone, a visionary and trailblazer, transformed Formula One and turned it into one of the most well-known and lucrative sports in the world. He has affected many facets of the sport and its culture. He is also a divisive and charismatic personality. He is a business tycoon who has made an enduring impact on Formula One and its history. He is a motorsports icon.