No Angel: The Secret Life of Bernie Ecclestone, by Tom Bower
Paperback, © 2011 Faber & Faber, ISBN 9780571269358
To say that Tom Bower’s autobiography on F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone is eagerly anticipated would be a gross understatement. And not least of which would be due to there being surprisingly few biographies of the man who has become a self-made billionaire by controlling the puppet strings of Formula 1 for the last four decades.
Bower has written a series of biographies – some brilliant, some contentious, all talked about – on powerful figures like Mohammed Al-Fayed, Gordon Brown, Conrad Black and Sir Richard Branson.
And while Branson’s biography earned utter condemnation from the very subject himself, the question on many people’s lips is if Ecclestone himself will provide similar criticism of the very book he cooperated so much in being written.
There were rumours in the lead-up to its release for general sale that Bernie was actually none-too-happy about its contents – he was rumoured to have cancelled the book’s launch party, for one – and perhaps his discontent will stem from the details concerning his relationship with his former wife Slavica.
There’s plenty of coverage of her tantrums and repeated attempts to undermine Ecclestone, which are incidents that have been given little, if any, coverage in what few biographies have been previously written about the 80-year-old.
And these extracts drew plenty of attention in the lead up to the book being published, which apparently caused more upset to his youngest daughters, Petra and Tamara, than the very subject himself.
This theme and Bower’s none-too-subtle – and rather over-repeated – focus on Ecclestone’s former life as a used car salesman as being the basis for him being the way he is, the book is a really fascinating read.
Generally well-written and quick-paced, the book motors along quite well, although at times it can get bogged down in the rather unavoidable trap of there being plenty of company names, acronyms and side characters that can make certain passages a little trickier to follow.
It is Bower’s near-exclusive access to Ecclestone – while writing this book – that really makes it sing, and Ecclestone provides plenty of quotes and anecdotes to keep the book ticking over.
For a man who provides so few interviews, his opinions on the sport’s many and varied incidents are revealing and insightful.
And credit to Bower for testing Ecclestone’s accounts and tearing down any myths that have steadily built up around the tycoon over the years.
Perhaps surprisingly, this book is nowhere near as as critical of Ecclestone as you might expect, and there isn’t a ‘silver bullet’ that will bring the great man undone off the back of this book – although you’re not left in the dark with any notions about his methods in wheeling and dealing with key figures in the sport.
Quite why the book’s cover is from over six years ago with Bernie on the grid in readiness for a Formula 3000 race is not exactly clear, but that’s a very minor (albeit curious) point overall.
This is a very good read.
Using our unique ‘Chequered Flags’ rating system, we award No Angel: The Secret Life of Bernie Ecclestone…
OUT OF A POSSIBLE FIVE.
No Angel: The Secret Life of Bernie Ecclestoneis available at specialist bookstores. Our review copy was supplied to us by Allen & Unwin, who are distributors for Faber & Faber.
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