Berine – Rags to riches, how son of a fisherman became F1’s ringmaster


Bernard Charles Ecclestone was born in October 1930 in Bungay, Suffolk. His humbled beginnings a son of a fisherman, living poverty for much of his childhood but it was clear when he was young he had the potential to make money.

Aged eight Ecclestone, moved to London and left school aged of sixteen. During his teens it was buying and selling spare motorbike parts, eventually founding Compton & Ecclestone with friend Fred Compton. Compton & Ecclestone became one of the country’s biggest dealers in motorcycles.

His business interest grew into property and a car auction business amongst others. In 1957, the Ecclestone moved into Formula One trying to qualify for the British Grand Prix. During that time he also moved into driver management, managing Stuart Lewis Evans, but left the sport after his death at the Moroccan Grand Prix.

A few years later, he returned managing the Lotus team in F2 with Jochen Rindt and Graham Hill. But following Rindt death at Monza in 1970, he once again quit the sport. He returned in 1972, managing Brabham overseeing there rise.

This is when he realised he was coming into the disorganised muddle of the way the sport was run. So set about bringing change to the sport, the teams agreed to give him the power to control the sports commercial rights, which turned him into a billionaire.

Ecclestone’s self-styled ‘dictatorship’ had begun. Berine set about transforming the sport from an ammeter sport into a multi-billion pound business. Building marketing power allowing sport’s popularity to rise and creating increased exposure and income, Bernie taking his substantial cut of the latter.

Ecclestone also brought the sports first permanent chief medical officer, Safety and Medical Delegate and head off on-track medical team, neurosurgeon in Professor Sid Watkins.

Even heart surgery in 1999, didn’t stop his reign as F1’s supremo.  Ecclestone a brilliant businessman, but controversial, rows with his own Labour Party over there plan to ban tobacco advertising and rows with the EU. Calling woman “domestic appliances” and saying teams wouldn’t select a woman driver if they could find a competent male.

Even saying this about Nazi leader Adolf Hitler in 2009, “terrible to say this I suppose, but apart from the fact that Hitler got taken away and persuaded to do things that I have no idea whether he wanted to do or not, he was – in the way that he could command a lot of people – able to get things done.”

His business dealings were also in the spotlight in 2012, after trying to keep control by bribing the German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky. The way that ended proved controversial, paying to settle the case.

Politics were an interest to him, saying he agreed with Vladimir Putin’s laws on banning information on homosexuality to under eighteens, his backing of Brexit and Donald Trump. Plus, Labour Party politics under Blair.

Off track Ecclestone, has been married three times resulting three children and five grandchildren. There was thought that Ecclestone would be the sports supremo until he was physically unable too, but F1’s self-styled leadership proved to be his undoing.

Berine, a brilliant business man, a leader and controversial.


Jack is responsible for the day-to-day running of Formula One Vault. He brings you all the brilliant content. Has an obsession with all things Formula One and anything with an engine.

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