What a day that was.
Liberty Media completed its £6.4 billion takeover of Formula One, the deal maker supreme Mr Bernie Ecclestone has been sidelined – to act as an adviser to the board supposedly, but that’s rubbish – Liberty’s Chase Carey has had Bernie’s former role of chief executive officer added to his existing position of chairman, and brought the former Ferrari-Mercedes man Ross Brawn – who had been acting as a consultant to Liberty – back into the sport to lead the sporting and technical side of F1.
Just catching my breath…
Well, if you think the 86-year-old Mr Ecclestone, who’s been in charge for nearly 40 years, is going to drive off into the sunset to partake in a game of bingo at the local retiree’s club, then think again.
Bernie remains an enigma to many. Like many of those of his generation and before, he has seen plenty of death in the sport to last a lifetime. It’s what many forget when they meet him. This kind of experience breeds toughness. To his enemies, he’s a formidable opponent; to loyal friends, he’s a brick. He also has a realistic view of what the sport has become…
Some may say this view of what he thinks the sport should be has now gone awry and we need a Liberty to sharpen things up a bit. We certainly do and some may say he’s met his match in Chase Carey. Then again how many times have we said that over the years.
The fat lady hasn’t arrived just yet.
In his book, The Piranha Club, Tim Collings describes an episode in Ecclestone’s life, recalled by Sir Frank Williams, which encapsulates Bernie, the man:
‘Those who have known him for a long time are full of admiration and respect. Frank Williams recalled him buying Brabham and running the early meetings of the 1970s. He remembered one incident, in particular, at the Watkins Glen Motor Inn.
“He was there negotiating with the organiser from Mexico and the man, literally, excused himself to go to the lavatory…and never came back. He went out of the back window!”
That, as Williams conceded with a smile, stuck in his mind. Of Ecclestone, the achiever, he said:
“In the big picture, we all know, and respect, that Bernie saw Formula One for what it could be. Over 30 years, he has moulded it into the activity that he thought would give it an important place in the world and a strong commercial base for the teams as well as creating a side of the business for himself.
“He has achieved his objectives very successfully. I think he has the admiration of all the teams for that. He really is a formidable individual in every sense of the word and he has created a worldwide sport pretty much single-handedly.”
And, of Ecclestone, the man, he said he had “a gifted business brain…He is intellectually very clever and level-headed. Clearly, he is very determined. He can also be very persuasive, when putting his deals together in the order in which he wanted them to stack up.”
Could anyone else have done what Bernie did?
“Probably, but he wasn’t in this part of the universe at the right time…I’ve always known it is impossible to second-guess Bernard. Like many clever businessmen, you don’t know what he is thinking.”