Bernie Ecclestone: F1 Supremo


Net worth $3.8 B

He may measure just over 5 ft, with the go-to quip being that he and Slavica were the same height once Bernie was standing on his wallet. He may even be borrowing Andy Warhols wig but one thing is for sure, no one can cut a deal like Bernie.

Ecclestone had the usual tough start in life. He grew up in Dartford, and didn’t have a birthday cake until the age of eight.

His first venture in wheeling and dealing was selling cakes to his schoolmates. He bought them from a shop and sold them at break-time. By the age of 14 he was buying fountain pens in bulk and selling them for a profit in London’s Petticoat Lane.

Ecclestone left school at 16 and built a large car dealership. After failing to qualify as a Formula One racing driver, he bought a team and brokered a complex series of contracts and TV deals for others before taking over most rights in 1997.

The snorkel clue to how Bernie made billions
In 1974, Bernie Ecclestone was hanging around a hotel pool with some Formula 1 staff. Watching a German driver swim two lengths underwater, Ecclestone belittled his efforts. Challenged that he could not do the same, he said: ‘Right, what’s the bet?’ ‘One hundred dollars,’ came the reply. ‘Let’s get the bet exactly,’ said Ecclestone. ‘You’re saying I can’t swim two lengths underwater?’ Heads nodded. ‘Right,’ said Ecclestone. ‘Go and get me a snorkel.’

The incident gave an insight into Ecclestone’s moneymaking skills and his ruthless attitude. His Formula 1 deals and contracts depended not only on the agreed terms, but equally on what was omitted  –  in this case, a snorkel.

Bernies business style
In Buenos Aires in 1979, Colin Chapman of Lotus offered his driver Mario Andretti, then the world champion, $1,000 if he would push Ecclestone into the hotel pool.

Andretti was nervous. Ecclestone could break him. So Andretti approached Ecclestone and told him what he had been asked to do. ‘Pay me half and you can,’ said Ecclestone. Clever, no?

The luxury Swiss watchmaker Hublot, an official sponsor of Formula One, ran an advert featuring the ­battered face of the sport’s supremo Bernie Ecclestone. “See what people will do for a Hublot,” the tagline read. Bernie was mugged for his £200,000 timepiece outside his London home. Using the shocking picture to sell products might seem poor taste on the watchmaker’s part – had it not been Bernie’s own idea. He sent the company the iPhone image and suggested it could be used for advertising. For he, more than anyone, understands the power of packaging images. It’s the basis of his billions, gleaned as he led the transformation of Formula One from the focus of a few thousand enthusiasts into a global enterprise.


Sources: No Angel, by Tom Bower, susan watkins.


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