Ecclestone biography out this week

04/12/2010
NEWS STORY

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.

Watkins is a journalist by trade and has authored numerous books including biographies of Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots and Jane Austen. Crucially, through her husband, she has known Ecclestone for 30 years so there probably isn't a more appropriate person to author his biography.

Sylt has assured Pitpass that her book contains some truly incredible and entertaining insights into Ecclestone's life as well as a great deal of news. "My favourite chapters in the book have to do with his early years, particularly Warren Street," says Watkins.

When the book was announced Ecclestone said that Watkins "has interviewed many people who have known me throughout most of my life and they have given her material that will complete the picture - past and present." It is no exaggeration. Not only has Ecclestone revealed to her how he progressed from being a used-car dealer to running F1, but she also spoke to his early associates, including his first business partner Fred Compton who ran a dealership in Bexleyheath with him when Ecclestone was aged only 18.

Ecclestone has divulged his innermost secrets to Watkins and told her "I want the book to be open and honest." It picks over all his key deals, his marriages and celebrity friends, his brief career on-track in F1, his management of the disasters which befell the sport, the truth behind the 1m donation he famously gave to Labour and even how he once had a penchant for casinos.

One wonders whether Bower may want to change the nature of his book since it will be the third Ecclestone biography and will be published three months later than Watkins' version. Presumably punters won't want to buy yet another book telling the same life story.

At the very least, it seems that the promotional blurb for Bower's book will need to be modified since, by the time Watkins' book is released, it doesn't look like it will be true to say that it has "never before" been revealed how Bernie graduated from selling second-hand cars to running F1.

Indeed, the years Watkins spent working on the book have given it content which Bower may struggle to match. Amongst the extensive list of people Watkins has interviewed are Sir Jackie Stewart, Flavio Briatore, Max Mosley, Frank Williams (who has written the foreword for the book) and even Ecclestone's younger sister Marian Tingey, who died years before Bower began working on his book. It could be just the inside track Watkins needs to keep her biography in the lead.

Article from Pitpass (http://www.pitpass.com):

Published: 04/12/2010
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