From Rags to Riches

Bernie Ecclestone is a force of nature. Even at the age of 83, he strides up and down the Formula one pit lane and the paddock area, with the same boundless energy that has marked his reign over F1 racing for the past three decades and counting. Sitting down inside his small, unguarded private tent in the paddock area behind pit lane, it was fascinating to watch Ecclestone at work.

Shortly before noon, various celebrity guests - British actors Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy, billionaire Cirque de Soleil founder Guy Laliberté and a gaggle of movie stars, billionaires and the odd Prince - arrived to pay tribute to him in much the same manner as foreign dignitaries might come to greet a world leader or royal head of state. This is a fitting comparison, however, as Ecclestone has ruled over the sport in a benevolent, iron-fisted way that has seen him transform a formerly rag-tag operation composed of factional racing tribes into a multi-billion dollar global business empire.

Unlike national potentates, however, Ecclestone has little need for ceremony. There is no excess baggage or artifice to his world or manner. He speaks in plain terms using an economy of words to state precisely what he thinks and feels. He has long sealed deals with a single handshake and adheres to an old-world expectation that one’s word is one’s bond.

Bernie, as he has been known for years to people within F1, likes to come to the point and has never seen the need to embellish anything. It’s that kind of brutal efficiency that has marked his time as ringmaster of the Formula One circus that has become the greatest sporting show on earth. He was the first to identify the ultimate potential of television to turn F1 racing into a world-wide spectacle, and in the process has made billions from his management and ownership of the sport’s commercial activities.

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Bernie Ecclestone