How Did Bernie Ecclestone Make His Money?

Bernie Ecclestone is one of the biggest names in Formula One Racing. The canny businessman has had a long career in cars, motorcycles, and sports.

It’s clearly been a lucrative journey, but how much money precisely has he accumulated over the years and how did he do it?

How Did Bernie Ecclestone Get Started?

A lot of people assume Bernie Ecclestone comes from money. The truth is that his father made ends meet by working as a fisherman. Bernie left school when he was 16 to take a job in a chemical laboratory. He continued pursuing his interest in chemistry by attending classes at Woolwich Polytechnic. He doesn’t seem to hold any formal degrees, but he has exceptional business instincts that have helped make him successful.

When World War II ended, Ecclestone left his job at the chemical laboratory to follow another interest, racing. He and his friend Fred Compton started a small business that sold spare motorcycle parts. The business evolved into the motorcycle dealership Compton & Ecclestone.

Ecclestone was a talented motorcycle racer, but he got injured during a competition. During his recovery, he invested in loan financing and started managing Weekend Car Auctions. These turned out to be very smart investments that would form a foundation for his future successes.

When Ecclestone returned to racing, he did so as a manager. From there, he purchased a few chassis and built a racing team.

Unfortunately, Stuart Lewis-Evans, one of Ecclestone’s top drivers, died after an accident at the 1958 Moroccan Grand Prix. Traumatized by the event, Ecclestone retired from racing. Of course, he would soon return more determined than ever.

In 1971, Ron Tauranac, who owned the Brabham racing team, approached Ecclestone about forming a partnership. Ecclestone responded by offering to purchase the team for £100,000. Tauranac stayed at the company as a designer. He and Tauranac had big personalities, so they butted heads often. Tauranac left the team within two years, giving Ecclestone an opportunity to promote Gordon Murray as the factory’s chief designer.

Murray and Ecclestone worked on several deals that enriched Brabham racing. For example, Murray found unique ways to modify Ford cars to make them more competitive on the track. Ecclestone struck business deals with several car companies, including Alfa Romeo and BMW. Meanwhile, the team’s racers were excelling in major competitions throughout Europe.

When Eccelstone decided to sell Brabham to a Swiss businessman in 1988, he earned $5 million from the deal. Now, Eccelstone had the experience and capital to rally supporters and create the Formula One Constructors Association (FOCA).

He was an executive within Formula One for decades until he “retired” to become Formula One Group’s Chairman Emeritus.

How Much Did Bernie Ecclestone Sell F1 For?

Bernie Ecclestone only stepped down as an executive within Formula One Group when he found a buyer willing to match his high demands.

In 2017, he sold F1 to an American media and entertainment company for $8 billion.

Who Owns Formula One Now?

Several individuals and companies have owned stakes in Formula One since its founding in 1974. Liberty Media Group purchased the organization in 2017 and remains its owner.

Liberty has two other major divisions outside of F1. It also owns Sirius XM and Live Nation.

How Did Bernie Ecclestone Make His Money?

Bernie Ecclestone made his money selling Brabham in 1988 and subsequently Formula One to Liberty for $8 billion.

Ecclestone probably became a millionaire when he sold Brabham to Joachim Luhti in 1988. He was a shrewd businessman who knew how to pursue lucrative deals.

Once he controlled Formula One, he started making money by selling rights to various TV stations. In 1997, he finalized a deal that let him retain television rights. He had to pay an annual fee, but owning the rights generated millions in personal income.

Ecclestone also sold shares of Formula One to raise capital throughout his tenure as an executive.

After undergoing a major heart surgery in the late 1990s, he reduced his ownership in SLEC Holdings, which owned many of F1’s managing firms. Despite his new position as a minority owner, his strong personality kept him in control of the company.

As Formula One became increasingly popular and profitable, more companies wanted to take a piece of the pie. Bernie Ecclestone even had to fight some of the world’s biggest banks (including Lehman Brothers and JP Morgan Chase) to retain control over the company.

After decades of hard work, Ecclestone decided to sell the business and step aside. Formula One Group sold for $8 billion. If Ecclestone hadn’t already become a billionaire, he achieved that goal when Liberty Media purchased the company in 2016.

What Happened to Bernie Ecclestone?

Liberty Media removed Bernie Ecclestone from his chief executive position within one year of buying Formula One Group. Considering Ecclestone’s reputation as a strong-willed person, the company had probably always planned to remove him.

Since his retirement, Ecclestone has generated plenty of controversy. In 2020, he made comments about race and racism that shocked many people. Formula One reminded the public that it had since parted ways with its founder and did not support his statements.

In 2022, Brazilian authorities detained him for carrying a firearm at an airport. Ecclestone admitted that he owned the gun but said he didn’t know it was in his luggage.

Ecclestone has also been outspoken about his support for Vladimir Putin, whom he considers a friend. Ecclestone has compared the invasion of Ukraine to a mistake that any businessman could make.

Perhaps most noteworthy, Ecclestone spent a year arguing with the British government about allegations of tax fraud. According to the government, Ecclestone was hiding assets in foreign countries to avoid taxes. He eventually pleaded guilty and paid a hefty fine in additional to 17 months of suspended prison time.

Bernie Ecclestone Net Worth

Estimates from 2023 show that Bernie Ecclestone has a net worth of £2.498 billion (about $3.15 billion).

His net worth has probably fallen some since then, though, because he agreed to pay UK tax authorities £652.6 million (about $821.64 million). He had previously pleaded guilty to charges of fraud by misrepresentation because evidence showed that he had withheld overseas assets from the British government.

The billionaire also received a suspended 17-month prison sentence. In the UK, convicts can serve suspended sentences in their communities instead of going to prison. Ecclestone’s suspended sentence likely carries stipulations about where he can go and what types of activities he can engage in.

What Does Bernie Ecclestone Do Now?

Amazingly, Bernie Ecclestone is busy raising a son. In 2020, his wife, Fabiana Flosi gave birth to Ecclestone’s fourth child. Ecclestone was 89 years old at the time. His wife was in her early 40s.

Ecclestone and his family spent the 2020-21 era in Ibiza. His wife convinced him to move to Gstaad, Switzerland in 2023.

Tamara Ecclestone Net Worth

Tamara Ecclestone, the daughter of Bernie and Croatian model Slavica Radić, reportedly has a net worth of $300 million.

She has made her money as a model and television personality.

Her career includes appearances with:

  • UK game show The Race (as a contestant)
  • Sky Sports Italia
  • The reality TV show Tamara Ecclestone: Billion $$$ Girl
  • Tamara’s World on ITVBe
  • Channel 4 covering the Red Bull Air Race World Championship

Tamara Ecclestone is married to Jay Rutland. They live with their two children in a London home they purchased for £45 million (about $56.64) in 2011.

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