For 40 years, F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone "has been a model for how to monetize a sport," according to Simon Kuper, writing in the Financial Times weekly Person in the News feature. F1’s operating profits in '11 were $451M, on revenues of $1.5B. Moreover, Ecclestone "has captured much of the sport’s value for himself." Forbes estimates his family’s wealth at $3.8B.
Biographer Tom Bower calls Ecclestone “the most successful British tycoon ever,” and yet “basically a completely uneducated south London second-hand car dealer.” However, Ecclestone’s "downfall may have arrived." Ecclestone "would not have stood out much in money-driven industries such as investment banking or commodities trading."
But in sport, "he had a crucial advantage: often he was the only person in the room thinking about profit while everyone else was pursuing glory, groupies or tradition." Even in the '70s, "he saw that F1 could sell television rights internationally."
Ecclestone "spends his days on his mobile phone, bargaining with TV companies, sponsors, team owners and governments keen to host races." Ecclestone "can best almost anyone in negotiations." He "pleads, bullies, charms -- and has even searched bins for notes discarded by rivals." He "prefers sealing deals with a handshake."
To Ecclestone, "every problem is a management issue that can be solved with a deal." Ideology "does not interest him." Ecclestone "has gradually sold his holdings in F1."
He "still runs the show," but now owns only about 5%. CVC, the largest shareholder, "planned to float the business." Ecclestone’s legal problems "make this hard." Ecclestone said of jail, "I don’t think I will like it very much. But you have to get on with things." FT
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