Bernie Ecclestone is no longer running the commercial side of Formula 1 following the American media conglomerate Liberty Media’s take-over of the commercial rights. The Briton has been in charge of the sport for almost four decades.
Ecclestone was born in Suffolk in 1930 to a fisherman. He got his first job at a gasworks, after that he dealt with motorcycle parts. He also started a racing career, competed in different feeder series, he even tried to qualify for two F1 races, but failed to set a competitive enough time.
He was then involved in managing drivers’ careers including F1’s sole posthumous champion Jochen Rindt. In 1971, he bought the Brabham team, in 1974 he got involved in the manufacturers’ group, the Constructors’ Association and became its president four years later.
His company controlled the commercial side of the sport after FIA licensed the rights to the Bernie Ecclestone-led group. The Briton sold shares of his company in 1997 to CVC Capitals, but he was assured that he could continue to lead the sport.
In September 2016, CVC Capital Partners agreed to sell control of the sport to the American media giant Liberty Media which is run by John Malone. The two-part deal meant Liberty Media bought 18.7 per cent of the F1 parent company Delta Topco. In January 2017, the second payment saw the American media group assume full control of Formula One.
The new major shareholder did not hesitate to oust Ecclestone with an imminent effect. His role was divided into three sectors which were occupied by Chasey Carey, Ross Brawn and Sean Bratches.
Ecclestone became the Chairman Emeritus. However, nobody knows what that role really means. Not even himself.
“I don't know what it is. No idea. I'd like some rules and regulations perhaps so I know what I'm supposed to do, or not supposed to do," said Ecclestone in an interview with SkySports.
Two months after he was forced to clear the way for the new trio of leaders, the billionaire businessman admitted he would have been glad to guide Formula One for at least one more year to help the new owner in the take-over process.
“I would have asked them to work with me for a bit, wait for a year and afterwards say 'has it worked, not worked?' 'Not worked? Sorry, you'll have to leave,' or whatever.”
"But different people operate companies differently, obviously. I think this is very much the way American companies operate. Let's be absolutely sensible about it: they bought the car, they wanted to drive it."
Ecclestone openly confessed why he was ousted by Liberty Media. According to him he was accused of having done a ‘lousy’ job over the past three years. However, he thinks the effectiveness of his job was showed by the trust of former major shareholder CVC Capitals and the annual income of the business.
“I think people have got muddled up a bit," he added. "These people have thought and said, and Chase has said, that I hadn't done a very good job in the last three years. I thought I had, CVC thought I had, and I managed to produce $1.5 billion-a-year income, which made their shares worth a lot of money."
"Maybe if I'd have done a lousy job people could have bought the shares cheaper."
Ecclestone, whose fortune is tipped to be in the region of around 2.9 billon US dollar according to the Forbes 2016 assessment, defended the way the income is divided between the various F1 teams. Ferrari is said to receive an income of around 100 million US dollar bonus just for its presence in the sport. The Briton thinks teams like Ferrari are rightly handed with such a bonus because they guaranteed that they stay in the sport for the future.
"When we looked at all the teams to see who could actually commit to 2020 - and when they committed would be there, because a lot of the teams say 'we'll sign it. But they'd have signed anything and then go out of business the next week. It wouldn't have made any difference.”
"We got a real commitment right from the top of the big companies so they needed to be rewarded for making their long term commitment,” concluded Ecclestone.