Bernie Ecclestone: New era for F1 as his 40-year reign ends

The deal-maker who turned Formula 1 into a multi-billion dollar business has been replaced by the sport's new owners

Bernie Ecclestone
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Bernie Ecclestone's 40-year reign as the ring leader of the Formula 1 circus is over after he was deemed surplus to requirements by the sport's new owners, Liberty Media.

The 86-year-old chief executive has been replaced by American Chase Carey in a move that had been telegraphed but was not expected to happen so soon after the $6bn takeover, which was finally approved last week.

Ecclestone confirmed the news, declaring that he had been "deposed" in an interview with the German publication Auto Motor und Sport. Liberty Media said he had been appointed as F1's chairman "emeritus" and would remain "available as a source of advice for the board of F1".

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

That is a far cry from the scenario outlined by Ecclestone when the deal was first mooted last year, when he said he expected to continue is his current role for three years. Few believe that Ecclestone will be happy with the outcome.

"The surprising speed of the decision is a clear signal of the intention of the new owners, Liberty Media, to change the way the sport is run," says Giles Richards of The Guardian. "It represents the most significant shift in Formula 1's management since Ecclestone took over in the late 1970s."

The move "represents a seismic moment in the history of Formula 1 and brings to an end one of the longest and most tumultuous reigns of any administrator in history," says Oliver Brown of the Daily Telegraph.

"Ecclestone first came to prominence when he bought the Brabham team in 1972 before he went on to take full control of the sport later in the same decade," he says. "Since then he has crafted the F1 behemoth into a multi-billion pound industry, with his contribution recognised by Carey on completion of the deal."

His career is "one of the most remarkable" in sport, says Jonathan McEvoy of the Daily Mail. "Juan Antonio Samaranch, architect of the modern, cash-rich, bloated Olympics, is dead. Sepp Blatter, the crooked former head of Fifa, is gone and disgraced.

"But until Monday, Ecclestone remained in charge of a sport that he turned from a ragtag-and-bobtail club of oil-splashed amateurs into a billion-pound-a-year business with races from Melbourne to Monza, from Russia to Singapore, from China to India."

Described by Andrew Benson of the BBC as "a tactician of remarkable skill, and a deal-maker extraordinaire" Ecclestone "used chutzpah and brinksmanship to turn F1 into one of the world's biggest sports, form relationships with world leaders such as Russian president Vladimir Putin and make himself and many of F1's participants multi-millionaires".

Although he "is held in genuinely high regard within F1 for everything he has achieved... few will be genuinely sorry to see him go".

In recent years F1 has become mired in politics, viewing figures have slumped, historic races have been dropped and the sport has been accused of failing to embrace the digital age.

Ecclestone's exit paves the way for a "comprehensive revamp" of the sport says Brown of the Telegraph. "F1's new owner, run by 75-year-old American John Malone, nicknamed Darth Vader for his ruthless approach, is keen to expand F1 in the US, expanding the sport's reach on social media and protecting the future of its traditional venues in Western Europe."

To continue reading this article...
Continue reading this article and get limited website access each month.
Get unlimited website access, exclusive newsletters plus much more.
Cancel or pause at any time.
Already a subscriber to The Week?
Not sure which email you used for your subscription? Contact us