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Ecclestone biography out this week

NEWS STORY
04/12/2010

The story of Bernie Ecclestone's biography is almost as long in the tooth as the man himself but it will reach a head on Friday with the launch of the first book written with the assistance of the F1 supremo himself.

The saga began in 2004 when a journalist named Terry Lovell launched the first biography about Ecclestone despite threats the F1 boss reportedly made against him for approaching his family members. The book, called Bernie's Game, is an impressive tome but is obviously lacking on content covering the events of the past decade. It also lacked endorsement from Ecclestone and this opened the door for something more official.

In 2001 Susan Watkins, wife of F1's former medical delegate Sid Watkins, approached Ecclestone about writing his biography and once he agreed she got to work. However, as time passed Ecclestone changed his mind. He paid Watkins off, put the book on hold and in April last year explained his reason for doing this. "I don't want a biography," he said. However, in the end, he didn't have much choice about it.

In September last year author Tom Bower reportedly began investigating Ecclestone to write a book about the F1 boss. When Ecclestone found this out he took an unusual course of action and he had good reason to do so.

Tycoons tremble at Bower's name since his books are renowned for unravelling complex businesses and unearthing secrets. His targets have ranged from jailed Tory peer Conrad Black and the late Robert Maxwell to Sir Richard Branson and Gordon Brown. His investigations have landed him in court and last year Bower won a libel case brought by Ecclestone's friend the publisher Richard Desmond.

Discovering that Bower was investigating him triggered a classic Ecclestone response. It is often said that he likes to keep his enemies close and therefore Ecclestone offered Bower access to his friends and confidantes.

Bower spent six months flying in Ecclestone's private plane, standing by as the F1 boss played backgammon with drivers and listening in to his business negotiations. Ecclestone got what he wanted from this strategy as the usually hard-nosed Bower warmed to him.

Instead of writing an expose, the book, which is due out in March next year, promises to tell Ecclestone's life story.

Writing a walk-through of Ecclestone's life led by the man himself could be a big risk for Bower's reputation. It might not be what his readers are expecting and it certainly isn't the style he has become renowned for. However, this is not the biggest challenge Bower may face.

As with almost everything that happens off-track in F1, the key to success is knowing Ecclestone well enough to ensure that he wont put something in place which could obstruct. Ironically, although Bower is writing a biography of Ecclestone, he doesn't seem to have this point covered.

The promotional blurb for Bower's book claims that "Ecclestone has never before revealed how he graduated from selling second-hand cars in London's notorious Warren Street to become the major player he is today." At least, that is what Bower may have thought.

A report in the Evening Standard, written by Pitpass' business editor Chris Sylt, reveals that Ecclestone has snatched the lead from Bower by resurrecting Watkins' biography. The book has been brought bang up to date and proofread by Sylt.

"Bernie has finally said please publish the book," Watkins told Sylt, adding that "finally, after nine years - and endless updates - it will see the light of day." Watkins' book, simply entitled 'Bernie: The biography of Bernie Ecclestone' will be released on 10 December just in time for the Christmas shopping rush.

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