“No Angel: The Secret Life of Bernie Ecclestone” reviewed

Book review

Tom Bower’s new book on Bernie Ecclestone has been eagerly anticipated. And not just because there are surprisingly few biographies of the tycoon who has dominated the sport for four decades.

Bower has previously written celebrated books on high-profile figures such as Conrad Black, Mohammed Al-Fayed, Gordon Brown and Richard Branson.

The latter book is a particularly stinging account which the subject denounced as a “foul piece of work” and “really rotten, nasty stuff”. Those quotes are blazoned on the dust jacket of “Branson” like badges of honour.

Is Bower’s work on Bernie Ecclestone likely to provoke such a condemnation? I suspect not – Bower has not given Ecclestone the scathing treatment he dished out to Branson.

The most surprising details in the book are not about his business deals, but his relationship with now-estranged wife Slavica.

Bower reports her public temper tantrums and humiliation of Ecclestone, an aspect was completely overlooked by the other recent biography of Ecclestone by Susan Watkins.

These passages have already drawn media attention following their publication in the Sunday Mail. Apparently they upset Ecclestone’s daughters more than the man himself.

This and Ecclestone’s early days are the smaller part of a book whose central theme is his growing domination over Formula 1 – although Bower makes repeated and telling references back to Ecclestone’s former life as a used car salesman.

Those who have read Terry Lovell’s 2004 biography “Bernie’s Game” will inevitably find some re-treading of familiar ground in the early part of “No Angel”.

The prose is succinct and fast-paced but at times it falls victim to the unavoidable problem of myriad company names, deals, offers and counter-offers making some portions complicated to follow.

What makes Bower’s work stand out is the access he had to Ecclestone. The man who is notorious for being less than forthcoming in interviews is quoted throughout the book.

His words give revealing new insights into F1′s most recent scandals: ‘spygate’, ‘crashgate’ and the showdown between FOTA, Ecclestone and Mosley in mid-2009.

As in his other works, Bower fires invective at lazy journalistic standards, criticising those who have gone before him for failing to test Ecclestone’s accounts and allowing myths to build up. He gets in a few more swipes at Branson, too.

Given Bower’s track record many might have expected him to present a damning account and a ‘smoking gun’.

Although it’s not as scathing as some of his other works, “No Angel” leaves you under no illusions about Ecclestone’s methods.

The surprise here is that while Bower’s portrait of Ecclestone confirms many assumptions about his tactics and razor-sharp business acumen, he also reveals an unexpected, more vulnerable side to his subject.

F1 Fanatic rating

Rating four out of five

Buy “No Angel: The Secret Life of Bernie Ecclestone” by Tom Bower

“No Angel: The Secret Life of Bernie Ecclestone”
Author: Tom Bower
Publisher: Faber and Faber, 2011
RRP: ??18.99 (UK)
ISBN: 9780571269297

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24 comments on “No Angel: The Secret Life of Bernie Ecclestone” reviewed

  1. Wouldn’t waste my money.

  2. Ned Flanders (@ned-flanders) said on 23rd February 2011, 17:22

    It sounds good, but the question is is it much better than “Bernie’s Game”? And are the chapters based on the years since BG was released (2004- 2011) good enough to justify buying it?

  3. andrewh said on 23rd February 2011, 18:42

    He’s about the size of an Angel,a small set of feathery white wings and he’s all set!

  4. Don Speekingleesh said on 23rd February 2011, 19:48

    Glad to see it’s worth reading. Should have it on my Kindle tomorrow.

  5. ajokay (@ajokay) said on 24th February 2011, 9:52

    Now I have Dido in my head.

  6. McLarenFanJamm said on 24th February 2011, 11:55

    Just downloaded it on the Kindle app on my phone, can’t wait to read it!

  7. Nickthegeek said on 24th February 2011, 16:53

    Couldn’t resist this at the price. Never read this kind of book before but really interested in the history of some of the deals, why there are certain grudges etc.

  8. theRoswellite said on 25th February 2011, 15:51

    …reminds me of the old Max and Bernie days, and their myriad off track antics…

    OUR TWO HEADED MONSTER

    From open beak one tongue extending
    Repeats in call the shriek pretending,
    “I am the law, I am the ending,
    I have your heart, I have your spending.”

    L’etat c’est moi.

    While the second head in tilt displays
    An eye transfixed in stolid gaze,
    Upon the knot where it doth sit
    With claws sunk deep in legal writ.

    L’etat c’est moi.

    This bird of body girth unending
    Can only flop in flight pretending.
    While it’s two heads on necks entwined,
    Spin round about, unravel, then rewind.

    L’etat c’est moi.

    Is this our future, this our past,
    To stand forever with pleas held fast,
    And our reward, just duff and feather dander
    Falling from our own, this Uber-Overlander.

    L’etat c’est moi.

    “THE STATE, IT IS I.”

  9. JamesR said on 26th February 2011, 12:52

    I’m an admirer of Bower’s having read his Maxwell and Rowland books, but while I’ll read the Branson one I’ll not waste the time with ‘No Angel”.

  10. BasCB (@bascb) said on 23rd March 2011, 15:28

    I just read the review by Pitpass editor Lawrence. Seems he heartfully dislikes it. Pretty funny to read him uncover all the wrong information in the book
    http://www.pitpass.com/fes_php/pitpass_feature_item.php

    • JRS said on 16th April 2011, 9:55

      Yep. It’s actually a comically crap biography, riddled with errors. I’m glad I didn’t waste my money buying it.

  11. Well I’ve just finished reading Bower’s tome, borrowed from my local library so no cost, thank goodness, and it’s somewhat dire. Indeed the time-line is non-existent, and even I, who doesn’t know all the background to everything, can find stupid errors which shouldn’t be there. You’ve scored it too high – 2 out of 5 methinks.

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