Book Review: No Angel – The Secret Life of Bernie Ecclestone by Tom Bower

 

 
Overview
 

Title: No Angel: The Secret Life of Bernie Ecclestone
 
Author: Tom Bower
 
Photography: Various
 
Publisher: Faber and Faber
 
ISBN: 978-0-571-26935-8
 
Year/Edition: 2011
 
# of pages: 417
 
Photos: 6 b&w; 18 color
 
Cover: Paperback
 
Size: 15cm (W) x 23.5cm (L) x 3.5cm (thick)
 
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Positives


Very comprehensive behind-the-scenes look at Bernie

Negatives


Nothing major


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Posted October 28, 2012 by

 
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Happy birthday Bernie!

With F1 ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone’s closed door commercial dealings in the spotlight yet again with German bank BayernLB trying to raid some loose change from Bernie’s cash register, it’s a good time to re-read Tom Bower’s 2011 book “No Angel: The Secret Life of Bernie Ecclestone” for some context.

Bower traces Bernie’s early years as self-made car dealer and charts his gradual moves into motorsport including managing Jochen Rindt, ‘buying’ the Brabham team at a knock-down price of £100,000 from Ron Tauranac, befriending Max Mosley, Frank Williams, Flavio Briatore, Luca Montezemolo, etc., cutting deals with GP circuits, FOCA clashes with the FIA, Blair donation scandal, 1997 aborted IPO, the complex web of investment bank dealings and EU settlements in the early 2000s, the CVC deal, 2007 McLaren-gate, Mosley’s News of the World scandal and Bernie’s own PR nightmares involving Hitler quotes.

If you’re interested in modern F1 history, off-track politics, corporate maneuvering, the behind-the-scenes dealings inside Formula 1 and rubbing with A-list celebrities in Monaco – you will enjoy reading Tom Bower’s book.

I picked up this book last year because of my own interest in the Brabham era when Bernie was team boss. From that perspective, this book doesn’t disappoint – it’s a little light on the Pace-Reutemann period, but makes up for it with good back room insights on relations with Lauda, Piquet and Gordon Murray’s various ‘technical’ innovations to produce GP winning cars.

Does Bower portray Bernie in a good or less positive light? He seems to include the good, the bad and also Bernie’s characteristic mastery of the unspoken loophole or fineprint. Surprisingly the book does explore Bernie’s personal life and frailties in some detail.

Photography is minimal and there are only a few personal photos. There are some black & white shots of a younger Bernie almost unrecognizable with slicked back hair instead of his trademark Beatles mop top, some color shots of his 70’s Brabham days to modern day rubbing shoulders with the elite.

I haven’t yet read any other books on Bernie like Susan Watkins’ “Bernie: The biography of Bernie Ecclestone” or Terry Lovell’s ‘Bernie Ecclestone – King of Sport’ but Tom Bower’s book will definitely be the most up to date as it covers up to the end of the 2010 season. Bower’s writing style packs in a lot of detail and he has obviously clocked up some serious research time.

If you’re interested in modern F1 history, off-track politics, corporate maneuvering, the behind-the-scenes dealings inside Formula 1 and rubbing with A-list celebrities in Monaco – you will enjoy reading Tom Bower’s book. For fans looking to kill time after the end of season, this would be a good book to add to your list.

After reading it, despite the history of ruthless dealing making it reveals, you have to acknowledge that modern F1 in some ways is really a child of a paternal Bernie Ecclestone rather than a cash cow. Given the insight into his street-wise deal making, I wouldn’t be surprised either if Bernie also negotiated a royalty with Bower for every book sold….

 

Wow Factor or the Money Shot: I’ve no idea how accurate the book is but it is claimed to be written with full co-operation and blessing of Bernie himself and Tom Bower personally interviewed many of the others like Max Moseley and Ron Dennis, so you could call it an authorized biography. Money shot – the photos of Bernie and his ex-wife Slavica and Bernie with Putin placed side by side for contrast no doubt….

 

Suitable for: F1 history fan and business types

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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