And it is official, today the 23rd of January 2017, Bernie Ecclestone is no longer CEO of the Formula 1 circus. Allthough rumors have been circulating the last couple of weeks, for most this must still feel like a bomb.
As you may remember, we wrote a piece on Liberty Media acquiring >35% of the shares of Formula 1. This shifted the power balance, which resulted in today’s news that Bernie was pushed aside for Chase Carey.
We have not found an official statement from Liberty Media yet, but we expect this to be released on the short term. In interviews Ecclestone has already confirmed the move, and explained Chase Carey will be taking over. Ecclestone has been offered an honorary function, however it remains unclear what this new function will do.
An end to an era, as we at thejudge13.com can only describe it. The 86 year old has been involved in F1 during all his life. After the 2nd world war, Ecclestone started driving Formula 3. Allthough not without succes he decided to concentrate on his business ventures and stopped racing. Gaining a good living, and having made some good investments, he returned to racing in 1957. He gradullay shifted from driving to managing: fist by having someone lese drive his cars, later by managing Lewis Evans. The latter died after injuries sustained at the 1958 Moroccan Grand Prix. This shocked the young Bernie into stopping with racing himself.
Later he returned managing, and co-owning a Formula 2 team with Jochen Rindt. After Rindt died (and being crowned champion of 1972 posthumously) Eccelstone continued by buying the Brabham team in 1972. In 1973 Ecclestone hired the legendary Gordon Murray, and started raking in wins over the 1974 and 1975 season.
Bigger succes came in the beginning of the 80-ies. Ecclestone had signed a young Nelson Piquet as driver, and BMW as the supplier of engines. Piquet won the 1981 and 1983 championship. 1985 marqued the end of the succesful cooperation between Ecclestone as team-owner, Murray as designer, and Piquet as driver. 1987 ended in a low, and BMW stopped supplying engines.
the golden trio Ecclestone, Murray, Piquet
In parallel to his activities as team-owner, Ecclestone has been involved as a Formula 1 executive since 1978, negotiating television rights (not that this completely voluntary on the part of the FIA: but you can read about the FISA-FOCA war later) In 1988 Ecclestone sold Brabham. Murray later commented that he felt Ecclestone lost his interest in owning a team during the 1987/88 season.
Ecclestone continued to negotiate deals on television right, which brought him in regulra conflict with FIA. He continued handling affairs for the team-owners though, which brought him to hammering out the significant 1997 Concorde Agreement.
Since 1999 Ecclestone started selling off shares in the company SLEC Holdings, but remainig in full control. In 2004 the other owners united as Speed Investments (Bayerische Landesbank, Morgan Chase, Lehmann Brothers, who together owned 75% of SLEC) wanted more control, and started a series of legal battles. In the meanwhile Ecclestone made a coup and got the teams behind him to sign a new Concorde Agreement. Speed Investments quickly backed away from further battles, and bought the remaining 25% from Ecclestone, forming a new company CVC. Ecclestone bought himself a share into the new company.
In 2012 former Bayerisch Landesbank chief Gerhard Gribowsky was charged with tax evasion, and Gribowski accused Ecclestone to have paid 44M USD in bribes. After some pushing and shoing, Ecclestone agreed to pay a 60M USD fine, to make the case go away in 2014.
Only 2 months to the 2017 Formula 1 season, Ecclestone must relinquish his, what we can only describe as controversial reign. After nearly 40 years, Ecclestone’s era comes to an end. The king is dead, long live the king?
Bernie as we will remember him..