For decades, Bernie Ecclestone loomed large over the sport of Formula One.
His involvement with organized racing began back in 1949 when he competed as a driver in a handful of races in the Formula 3 Series. However, it was soon clear that he didn’t belong behind the wheel.
Instead, in 1957, Ecclestone took his expertise off the track as manager for Stuart Lewis-Evans, a promising young driver. Unfortunately, in a tragic turn, Lewis-Evans died just a year later from injuries sustained in an engine explosion during the Moroccan Grand Prix.
In the early ‘70s though, Ecclestone returned and really made a name for himself by purchasing Brabham, an Australian Formula One team, for roughly $120,000. He would go on to make substantial changes to Brabham during his time as owner and eventually sold the team 15 years later for over $5 million.
While running Brabham, Ecclestone made the biggest move of his career – creating the Formula One Constructors Association (FOCA). In quick order, he rose from founding member to chief executive. As head of FOCA, he essentially took control of the entire sport by wresting control of television negotiations for the Grands Prix.
For the next 40 years, until his unceremonious ousting at the hands of Liberty Media, Ecclestone would remain the CEO of Formula One.
During his time at the helm, Ecclestone grew both the Formula One brand and himself into multibillion-dollar entities. At the time of this writing, Ecclestone’s estimated net worth is just over $3 billion USD (though some of his wealth comes from shrewd investments made outside of the racing industry).
He didn’t just grow the brand, though. Ecclestone, perhaps inspired by his heartrending experience with Lewis-Evans, also made meaningful contributions to the safety of Formula One.
Although no longer the CEO, Eccelstone has remained with the company in an advisory role.