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'No Angel: The Secret Life of Bernie Ecclestone' by Tom Bower - Kindle review - A detailed biography of the Formula One supremo

Published by Christine

Author Tom Bower is better known for his unauthorised biographies of his chosen subjects, but for reasons unknown, Bernie Ecclestone allowed Bower unprecedented access to his life, his friends and family, to try and get an inside line on what makes the F1 supremo tick.

Expansion, profits, and the bottom line

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Bower was alongside Ecclestone as he meandered through the Monaco Grand Prix last year, and that is where the biography begins, following Bernie as he hobnobs with the rich and famous. It's a jarring way to begin the story, a first chapter filled with assumed knowledge and irrelevant characters. As a glimpse of Bernie's presumably hectic and celebrity filled life, it does the job, but as a reader, it is about as off putting as a first chapter can be.

Thankfully, from the second chapter onwards, things improve somewhat. Although the writing can be far too wordy, and sometimes even exhausting, the narrative begins to make more sense. Back to basics, with Ecclestone's childhood and formative years, the book takes on the chronological narrative you expect from a biography.

Instantly, it's clear to see that Bernie loves the thrill of the deal, and his uppermost concern is expansion, profits, and the bottom line. This will not come as a surprise to anyone who has followed Formula One for more than a few years, but if you're looking to this book to provide another side to Bernie, it doesn't really succeed.

One dealer who had tricked Ecclestone was pleasantly surprised to be offered 'a Mercedes 230SL hard top', a convertible sports car with a detachable hard roof, for an advantageous price. After paying in cash, the dealer was told by Ecclestone: 'The hard top's in the street outside.' The dealer found the hard roof sitting on the tarmac - but no car.

- No Angel, by Tom Bower

The few snippets of information about his personal life are ever so slightly revealing, but there is not much to tell. I wasn't aware that he had a child before Tamara and Petra, and I was certainly not aware of his love life before Slavica. It's not information I would have sought out, but you'd expect a little more than what there is to go on within these pages.

The politics of sport

Plenty of research has gone into the book, with all the important deals described in great detail. From the parties involved, to the sums of money in question, to the ultimate outcome - usually going Bernie's way - if you want to follow the politics of sport and find out how Bernie has come to be in the position he is, then it is the book for you. I was fascinated by the difficult position he seemed to end up in, having built the sport up from very little, to then finding the teams turning against him, but even when things weren't going his way, it was very hard to be sympathetic.

'Formula One', said [Colin] Chapman in a coded complaint about Ecclestone, 'has degenerated into power struggles and political manoeuvrings between manipulators attempting to make more money out of the sport than they put in.' The future, he warned, was blighted by a 'quagmire of plagiarism, chicanery and petty rule interpretations'.

- No Angel, by Tom Bower

Surprisingly, despite the great level of detail involved, I don't feel much the wiser having finished the book. Bernie Ecclestone remains an enigma, someone who can sniff out a good deal and won't let go of it once he's found it. This is not new information, and aside from a few highlighted deals from his early years, I'm not sure how much of this really is.

Still, it's a respectable job by Bower, first chapter excluded. Piecing together all the evidence must have been a mammoth job, but ultimately, I'm not sure anyone will be able to find out what makes Ecclestone tick.


Book information
TitleNo Angel: The Secret Life of Bernie Ecclestone
AuthorTom Bower
PublisherFaber & Faber
Published24 February 2011
File size1,748 KB

This book highlights Bernie's great capacity for getting the most out of any business deal, and the narrative revels in giving the utmost detail in the major turning points in both Bernie and Formula One's financial life.

Likely aimed at the diehard F1 fan only, there's little colour to grab hold of, but a few stories that really illustrate the character we're dealing with.

Rated: 2 out of 5

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