Bernie & Max – Formula One’s Odd Couple

 200px-MaxMosley.jpgecclestone.jpg

Give Bernie Ecclestone (right) due credit…..he knows how to eat his cake and keep it.

He has sold for an undisclosed sum the commercial rights of Formula One motor racing to private equity firm CVC Partners after months of negotiations but stays one as chief executive and a shareholder to further build the business.

Where that leaves Max Mosley,(left) the other half of Formula One's Odd Couple, remail unclear.

What is more certain is that at 75, and after more than 30 years Ecclestone is finally loosening the stranglehold on the business he created and which has given him and his wife Slavica wealth running into billions of pounds.

Not bad going for the Suffolk trawler skipper’s son  who left school at 15;  although he ultimately got a chemical engineering degree from Woolwich Polytechnic, even as a teenager he was competing in motorsports, both on motorcycles and eventually racing a 500cc Formula 3 Cooper on a regular basis until an accident ended his career in 1951.

He went into team management and eventually took over the whole of F1. A bond issue in 1999 and the sale of 75% of the business a year later netted Ecclestone £1.9 billion. That money was transferred to Jersey-based trusts controlled by  Slavica. But when German media giant Kirch, which had bought the 75% stake, went bust, its bankers took the shares. A court battle followed because they wanted thei money back and it has never been clear.

According to the Sunday Times, whatever happens, Ecclestone has some choice assets to enjoy, including a £75m yacht, a £12m jet, a £5m London home and his own hotel and chalet at Gstaad. BusinessF1 magazine valued him at £2.323 billion in late 2003.

Where the new deal leaves Max Mosley,  Ecclestone’s “other half” is equally unclear but you can be certain he will be in the winner’s enclosure.

From their resumes, you would not have predicted Bernie and Max as a match made in heaven.

Max, in his university days, was secretary of the prestigious Oxford Union and became a respected lawyer before venturing into Formula One. Like Bernie, Max also dabbled as a driver in Formula 2 and as a club racer. Max also came from a storied family in the British aristocracy: his father was  Sir Oswald Mosley the British Fascist leader of the 1930's mother was Diana Mitford, sister of Nancy Mitford, the writer.

The Odd Couple have been linked since the early 1980’s when they and the constructors formed a group called the Formula One Constructor's Association (FOCA) to fight a  common enemy: the Federation Internationale du Sport Automobile (FISA), the governing body of Formula One that was forerunner of what is now the Federation Internationale de l'Autombile (FIA).

The so-called FISA/FOCA War: was for control of  the commercial and promotional rights to Formula One racing. Eventually after some very public squabbling a deal was struck. 

Max went on to run the FIA where he is currently in his fourth term as president so his umbilical cord with Bernie remains unbroken for the foreseeable future.

Thanks for reading Big Business.

David Davis
www.writer4business.com

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