Bernie Ecclestone’s four decades as Formula 1 supremo, and dictator some might add, is at a cross-roads if not a dead-end as Liberty Media start the process of taking control of the sport they have purchased, with a view of having their hand-picked management team in control before the season gets underway at the Australian Grand Prix in March.
Word is that Liberty have earmarked an ‘honorary president’ role for Ecclestone which many believe he will refuse.
The Telegraph reported recently: “The doubt is where the shift will leave Ecclestone. He had expressed a desire to carry on for another two or three years but so far all Liberty’s rhetoric has been about making a clean break with the past. The likelihood is that the latest step in their acquisition of F1 will finally force the sport’s once all-powerful figure to take a passenger seat.”
Headlines in specialist motorsport media are predicting a big change:
Crash.net: Ecclestone to exit next week?
IBT: Bernie Ecclestone’s 40-year reign of Formula One could be over by next week
Jalopnik: Bernie Ecclestone On Keeping His Job And The Future Of Formula …
Planet F1: Ecclestone’s F1 future in doubt
Autoweek: F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone ready to step down
While we reported last week that for now Ecclestone, who turns 87 in October, will sit on the fence and see what Liberty have in mind for him. Report here>>>
Meanwhile Liberty have been head-hunting for individuals that will make up the team to run the sport going forward, with newly appointed Formula 1 chairman Chase Carey reportedly courting former ESPN executive Sean Bratches to run the commercial side of the business.
While a deal is apparently in place already for Ross Brawn to step up into the new Liberty spawned management ring as Formula 1 sporting director.
The new dawn for Formula 1 is likely to bring the sun down on Ecclestone’s long one-man-show style reign, which (one could say) began when he formed the Formula One Constructors Association (FOCA) in 1974 with Frank Williams, Colin Chapman, Teddy Mayer, Ken Tyrrell, and Max Mosley – although the plotting started long before.
He was shrewd in foreseeing the power of television income and thus became increasingly involved in negotiating the sport’s television rights, while strengthening FOCA and taking on the FIA president (and dictator at the time) Jean Marie Balestre.
In the end of a long and grueling boardroom battle, with Max Mosley in his corner, Ecclestone triumphed over Balestre. To cut a long story short: Mosley became FIA boss and Ecclestone reaped the rewards – the rest is history!
As Formula 1 grew in stature, with massive television exposure thanks to huge global deals he engineered with broadcasters and host nations, so did Ecclestone’s fortune and power. Forbes magazine reported in April 2016 that he is worth $3.2 billion.
Now, decades later, several sources are predicting a flurry of boardroom action this week, with Ecclestone expected to turn down any non-executive role, while anything other than chief executive simply will not do. Thus his tenure at the helm of Formula 1 will be over, as Liberty are unlikely to capitulate to his demands now that they own the sport.