Ecclestone is the president and CEO of Formula One Management and Formula One Administration, and as such is generally considered the primary authority in Formula One racing.
Bernard Charles "Bernie" Ecclestone is the president and CEO of Formula One Management and Formula One Administration, and as such is generally considered the primary authority in Formula One racing. His control of the sport, which resulted 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.
Bernard Charles Ecclestone was born in a small Suffolk village, the son of a trawler captain, and spent his early childhood in the town of Wangford, near Southwold. The family moved to Bexleyheath in southeast London and Ecclestone left school at 16 and went to work at the local gasworks. His passion was motorcycle scrambling and he began competing immediately after the war. As machinery was scarce he began buying and selling motorcycle spare parts, doing the business in his spare time. He built up the spares business and then went into business with Fred Compton to form the Compton & Ecclestone motorcycle dealership.
In 1949 Bernie made the move to car racing in a Formula 3 Cooper Mk V. He raced this car until 1956 but his aspirations as a driver took a knock at Brands Hatch in 1953 when he collided with his friend, and fellow car dealer Bill Whitehouse and found himself in the car park behind Paddock Hill Bend! He also owned a Kieft CK 51 for some time but it is unclear how much he used the car.
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 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.
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.
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.
Ecclestone is married to Slavica Ecclestone, neé Slavica Malic, a 6'2" Croatian former Armani model who is 28 years his junior, with whom he has two daughters, Tamara and Petra.