Ecclestone’s wealth rises amid fierce scrutiny

2014 F1 season

Bernie Ecclestone, 2013The £26m bribe Bernie Ecclestone is alleged to have paid Gerhard Gribkowsky amounts to a small fraction of his available funds, according to the latest valuation of his total worth.

The Sunday Times Rich List 2014 ranks Ecclestone in joint 29th place among the richest Britons. His estimated wealth of £3bn has increased by £500m compared to last year, and leaves him by far the richest person who made their money in motor racing.

But Ecclestone’s earnings have never been under greater scrutiny – and not just in a courtroom in Munich. Last month he was reported to have paid as little as £10m in tax on profits of £1.2bn.

Ecclestone also contributed, indirectly or otherwise, to the fortunes of the next two richest motor racing figures on the list: his ex-wife Slavica, whose £740m wealth was largely gained from their divorce, and Paddy McNally, who ran the Allsport business including the lucrative Paddock Club and who is now valued at £510m.

Ron Dennis has moved up the list, his total estimated worth almost doubled to £260m on account of his plans to spend £250m to increase his stake in McLaren from 25% to 50%.

The wealthiest active driver to feature in the annual report is Lewis Hamilton, whose income from his Mercedes contract has increased his total wealth to £68m.

Meanwhile Grahame Chilton, father of Marussia driver Max Chilton, is assessed to have a total wealth aproximate to that of eighties F1 driver Johnny Dumfries, who is also the Marquess of Bute.

Motor racing figures on The Sunday Times Rich List 2014

Name Wealth Notes
Bernie Ecclestone £3000m Joint 29th overall
Slavica Ecclestone £740m Former wife of Bernie Ecclestone
Paddy McNally £510m Ran Allsport, which operates The Paddock Club, until 2011
Tony Fernandes £392m Owner of Caterham F1 team
Ron Dennis £250m Chief executive of McLaren
Kevin Wheatcroft £120m Runs Donington Park
Johnny Dumfries £110m The Marquess of Bute
Grahame Chilton £110m Max Chilton’s father, who made his money in insurance
Frank Williams £106m
Ross Brawn £100m Largely earned from sale of Brawn GP to Mercedes
Eddie Irvine £83m Invested F1 earnings in property. Not in top 1,000 (listed in Irish top 250)
Eddie Jordan £80m Not in top 1,000 (listed in Irish top 250)
Lewis Hamilton £68m Not in top 1,000 (eighth in youngest under 30)
Jenson Button £63m Not in top 1,000
Martin Birrane £60m Not in top 1,000 (listed in Irish top 250)

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54 comments on Ecclestone’s wealth rises amid fierce scrutiny

  1. toiago (@toiago) said on 18th May 2014, 20:20

    Interesting that Alonso doesn’t figure in that list at least near Lewis and Jenson taking into consideration the fact that for the past few seasons he has been, reportedly, the highest paid driver in Formula 1.

  2. In_Silico (@insilico) said on 18th May 2014, 20:21

    All of this money that has been available to him now and through the years.. The main thing that annoys me is the fact that he doesn’t use more of that money towards the good of F1. Like I don’t know, reducing ticket prices to make races more accessible? Or lower the price on the TV rights. Just a thought.

    • Rooney (@rojov123) said on 19th May 2014, 8:09

      It is his personal wealth. He doesn’t have to use his personal wealth for F1 marketing/cost control etc.. Just like how Lewis Hamilton doesn’t have to use his own money to pay for Mercedes engineers.

      • petebaldwin (@petebaldwin) said on 19th May 2014, 10:47

        @rojov123 – yeah but where has his personal wealth come from? If he looked out for what was best for F1 rather than what was best for his bank balance, F1 would be much better for it.

        Several F1 teams are struggling to remain in existence but Bernie has made £500m in one year? Seriously? You could find a whole grid full of Marussia’s for that amount!

        • petebaldwin (@petebaldwin) said on 19th May 2014, 10:48

          * “fund” not “find.”

          • Rooney (@rojov123) said on 20th May 2014, 6:05

            Where his money came from is irrelevant. The teams agreed as to the prize structure. So anything he made is from his own shrewdness and intelligence. Why should he spend his own money for the benefit of someone(teams) without any possible returns?

  3. George (@george) said on 18th May 2014, 20:27

    Who is Martin Birrane?

  4. Nick (@npf1) said on 18th May 2014, 21:17

    Interesting to see Eddie Irvine is higher on the list than Eddie Jordan. Makes me wonder, if Irvine had entered F1 a couple of years ago, if he wouldn’t be.

  5. Latvian (@latvian) said on 18th May 2014, 21:28

    I am not contributing to Bernies wealth growth. because I watch F1 via internet streams. the best things in life are for free.

  6. Tifoso1989 (@tifoso1989) said on 18th May 2014, 21:51

    What amazes me the most in this list is that Eddie Irvine is ranked higher than both WDC LH & JB. Really not bad for a n°2 driver.

  7. xjr15jaaag (@xjr15jaaag) said on 18th May 2014, 22:26

    It would be really interesting, I think, to see how each F1 driver currently on the grid compare to one another.

  8. DaveD (@daved) said on 18th May 2014, 22:45

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: How much money is enough for Bernie? Why does he continue to drain resources out of F1 and chance destroying the sport while he’s already obscenely wealthy? How many teams have to fail before he’s happy?
    I have no problem with Bernie doing well from his early days because he took much of the risk. But he’s long since past the point of obscenity and is now a leach on the sport and actually inhibiting growth to enrich himself further. His interests no longer coincide with F1 and he needs to be gone.

    • bull mello (@bullmello) said on 19th May 2014, 1:35

      @daved – The emperor has no clothes. And yet, he still is the emperor.

      £3000m! That means £3 Billion! (That we know of.) And still rolling in.

      Nothing against anyone being wealthy, or clever. But as you mentioned, “obscene”. The teams and fans deserve better.

      The emperor has no clothes…

  9. Spencer Ward (@sward28) said on 18th May 2014, 22:48

    Unbelievable that he’s been able to siphon off that much money from F1 over the years, and yet here we are struggling to keep the grid a float. I mean, there’s only so much you can do with that amount of money no? I really don’t see the need to continue to rake in 500 million a year, when you already have 2.5 billion. It’s time he went. He’s already up there in age, and F1 needs a change from someone who just takes the money for themselves to someone who is going to say “Well I’m pretty well off already, let’s see what we can do about the sport”.

    • Phil R said on 5th August 2014, 14:32

      I’m pretty sure his reply would be: I give the teams plenty of money as it is, it’s not my fault they go off and spend even more to go 1/10 of a second faster. I offered the teams an equal share which would be enough for them all to run without sponsorship, but they rejected the plan.

  10. Max Jacobson (@vettel1) said on 18th May 2014, 23:34

    All that serves to prove is that the main contributors to the sport – the teams – are being starved if the funds they need to sustain themselves.

    • DaveD (@daved) said on 18th May 2014, 23:44

      @vettel1 and @sward28 I think we’re all of a similar mind. And on top of it, Bernie has a strange system in place that punishes the back markers with little or no prize money at the end of the year.
      The best sports leagues have a system of giving at least SOME type of competitive advantage to the lower ranked teams so they can catch back up and make the sport more competitive. In sports like the NFL, they give the lower placed teams higher draft choices. It’s always great for fans because their favorite team has a chance to come up and be relevant this year, no matter how bad last year might have gone for them. So there is that all important fan (and team) motivator: HOPE

      I saw someone over on another site suggest that the back marker teams should get more test time going into the year. I think they should do that and a little bit of money to help cover track/test time. At least it would give them time a chance to be somewhat competitive as the year started.

  11. trotter said on 19th May 2014, 0:19

    So Bernie’s wife has two times the money Britain’s two top team’s owners have put together. While Bernie himself has almost 10 times more Ron and Frank put together.
    Yeah, nothing wrong with that. Nothing at all…

    • trotter said on 19th May 2014, 0:21

      P.S.
      I’m not counting the likes of Paddy McNally and Tonny Fernandes who have probably made the most of their money somewhere else. Like Chilton’s dad and few more of those.
      The four mentioned in my comment above are all people who made 99% of their fortune from the money generated by F1.

  12. Isn’t he 83? Why does he need more money??? he is so close going six feet under.. i dnt really fathom it!!!

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 19th May 2014, 7:11

      I guess for Bernie the money lies somewhere between keeping score and just being a habit @adney

    • Iestyn Davies (@fastiesty) said on 19th May 2014, 15:00

      What I wonder is, how he’s going to get that £3bn back to his family again.. Unless he will through the Bambino trust and things like that..

      Part of the current controversy was his wish to avoid inheritance tax, hence placing his fortune in Liechtenstein, where the tax laws don’t allow huge fines on non-payment of taxes. Then settling with HMRC for £10m on over £1.2bn of profits….. now who said he’s the best deal maker about..

    • HoHum (@hohum) said on 20th May 2014, 23:04

      Bernie is a very small person, no doubt he was bullied at school and this is his way of compensating.

  13. Jeff (@jtcolegrove) said on 19th May 2014, 11:40

    The man in charge of the commercial side of F1 has managed to take in 3 Billion from the sport, yet the teams who actually design, build, and race the cars cumulatively are only given 50% of the commercial revenue??? I really wish the teams would have walked a couple years ago.

    The teams who participate should collectively own the sport, no one else.

    • Phil R said on 5th August 2014, 14:34

      What about the circuits? Leave them out and that’s when you get an IndyCar/Cart split.

      Only reason they didn’t walk out is because they can’t organise themselves.

  14. Robbie (@robbie) said on 19th May 2014, 13:17

    It is not news that BE is a billionaire. It is also well known that many other people within F1, including drivers, have gotten very wealthy from being in F1. Everyone involved is getting agreed upon amounts of money, negotiated with lawyers involved, signed contracts to confirm it all. New teams entering F1 go into it eyes wide open. It is not up to BE to subsidize the lesser teams. If they can’t survive in F1 they should not have entered, but more to the point they had to present strong cases at the outset to prove they will be able to play in F1.

    Should the teams, particularly the newer lesser ones get more of the pie? Sure I can see that. But it is not reality to expect that to come from BE’s wallet. If F1’s survival depended upon some lesser teams surviving then I suppose the business model would have already changed by now, and it may yet, but Haas is coming, perhaps another team too, and F1 goes on. If F1 needed the lesser teams to have more of BE’s agreed upon income, the other big teams would have revolted by now and the model would have already changed. Why haven’t they? Perhaps they are too busy doing their own banking and counting their own tens and hundreds of millions that they are also not plowing back into F1 to help smaller teams who should be left to sink or swim, such is business, and life. If they weren’t pleased with the arrangement they shouldn’t have continued pursuing F1 once they found out what the arrangements would be.

    Perhaps a new arrangement is needed, especially in the wake of the global recession of 08/09, a tweaking of the same amount of money being differently distributed, but BE would still come out the leading money earner which nobody within F1 seems to have too much of a problem with. They wouldn’t dare begrudge BE his personal wealth, for then their’s would be put under a microscope, including the new team owners who obviously have no small bank accounts themselves for them to be playing in F1 to begin with.

    • DaveD (@daved) said on 19th May 2014, 15:55

      @robbie
      I understand that existing contracts are set up the way they are. But I find them to be clearly flawed and in need of an update for the good of the sport. I can see how they started this way and I have no problem with Bernie becoming a billionaire from all this because I’ve read many accounts where Bernie is the one who took much of the risk in the early days.
      But the sport has shifted. The economy has been tough ever since my American banking buddies managed to destroy the world economy in 2008. There simply are not as many companies floating around with deep pockets to fund the teams through sponsorship. And we have collectively banned tobacco companies and we look down our noses at alcohol based adverts which were some of the major revenue generators of the past.
      Meanwhile Bernie schedules races in Azerbaijan and ignore France because HE gets bigger paydays out of that. Forget the fact that the teams can’t get their sponsors excited about the crowds in such a remote and frankly non-existent place for their sponsorship dollars. How much money is Johhny Walker going to get out of advertising there? How about Martini? But hey, they’ll line Bernie’s pockets more deeply than the French will so why not go there if you’re Bernie?

      You say that it’s the problem of the back marker teams and they shouldn’t play if they can’t handle the playing field. Well, when they started fighting for a space on the grid and applying for entry, nobody expected the change in financial strengths to go this long or this deep.

      OK, so what about their share of the revenue from TV? Most of the money is coming from different sources now and Bernie is choking off new sources such as Internet revenue because of his fear of losing control. There are legitimate reasons to be concerned because nobody really knows whether the total take is better to allow coverage of free TV and pay through adverts during the race (as NBCSports does here in the US) or whether pay-per view brings in a larger total purse. And if it is pay-per-view, how much to charge per race? Do you get more total revenue from $5/race or £25/race?

      My impression is that fans are very unhappy with the current pay-per-view pricing. I think that getting a larger fan base and selling them follow on shirts, jackets, etc. is a better strategy. I know that the teams are struggling so clearly the current financial formula is not working and I we keep hearing that the sport is in trouble without major changes.

      But then we find out that Bernie gained yet another half billion £’s this year while all this is going on??? I’m sorry, but there is going to be some reaction to what is perceived as out of control greed on the part of Bernie at this point. He’s killing the goose that lays the golden eggs and doesn’t seem to care as long as he gets his before the game ends.

      The world has changed, the sport has changed, and anyone who cares for the sport would truly adjust the contracts to reflect it. It’s not like he’s going to be losing money.

      • Robbie (@robbie) said on 19th May 2014, 20:35

        @daved I think we both can agree that it seems F1’s money distribution could be tweaked…F1 insiders have talked about it too.

        We don’t know, and imho it is highly unlikely, that this 500m increase for BE means that is what he ‘took out of F1′ last year. Some of that could be money he is getting back from his wife, other investments, etc etc. which of course is all money from racing, but not necessarily from these recent years since 08.

        I would also add that nobody put a gun to Martini’s (for example) head to advertise with Williams in F1, so if they don’t feel as much impact from some markets as others, that probably applies to most brands that use F1 as a medium. There must be an overall benefit for them. Haas seems fine with the lay of the land, as does Honda. So it can’t all be as bad as you spell out.

        On the other side of the coin, those many firms who are advertising through F1 are also getting some impact from that…it’s why they are there…ie. the entity of F1 itself does not have to guarantee Martini that they will get every cent back that they have put into F1, nor does Williams. Martini will determine if global sales have increased sufficiently in a manner that they can pinpoint to being from involvement in F1, and that will determine their longevity with F1.

        I won’t profess to know if pay-per-view is better for F1 and the teams than ‘free’ but I do know that the teams and FOM can do both or either based on what the bottom line is in terms of viewership and revenues.

        Maybe F1 is a little sick these days, but I’m not sure anyone needs to be picking out headstones. Haas, Honda, Martini, New Jersey, and Russia aren’t. I doubt they would be wanting in if they were truly just lining BE’s pockets. They are not stupid. They know what is in it for them, and they want in, in spite of your take on where they stand with BE.

        • DaveD (@daved) said on 19th May 2014, 20:49

          @robbie
          I wouldn’t judge it OK because Haas or Honda, etc still think they can put their money in and get something out of it. There is always some fool who things they can make it work when others “just didn’t do it right”. I was in a startup in Houston in the early 2000’s where we ran through $256M worth of money for nothing. Even after the first $200M, I kept watching a parade of people come through thinking that it was “just on the edge” of making it. I kept trying to get them to stop taking money and hiring people until we had some revenue. But I was only number three in the company and number 1 got controlling interest in shares and was the son of a billionaire and he knew his trust fund was safe…so he had no problem spending other people’s money to try and make a name for himself. Anyway, the investors were simply amazing to watch. They would see exactly what they wanted to see and kept putting money in till the day the doors closed.
          People spending money is not a way to judge the health of a vehicle.

          And you’re not really addressing my point about sponsors/advertisers: Yes, they still put money in…but what is that title sponsor worth today vs. 1988? Vs 2007? They clearly have sponsors but is it at the same level they had in the past? I truly don’t know so I’m curious if anyone has any real information. But I bet in terms of 1988 dollars, the sponsorship dollars today would be worth a lot less.

          • Robbie (@robbie) said on 20th May 2014, 13:05

            @daved Fair enough. You’ve had a specific experience, but I wouldn’t judge Haas and Honda based on that. As to the worth of sponsors dollars in 88 vs 07 vs now, I wouldn’t know either. It’s a very complicated question no doubt. Red Bull’s advertising dollars have garnered them 4 Championships in a row, and they’re still here so there must have been a return on their investment sufficient enough. Honda has been in and out of F1 several times since the 60’s, lastly with BAR, and next year with Mac. I’m sure their eyes are fully open as to what they’re in for.

            I think you are fully right to question the potency of F1 to it’s sponsors, and different models of distributing money, particularly to favour the lesser teams in order to help them be a little more competitive. That happens in other major sports where you own a team or franchise, I think not so much with money but with draft picks for up and coming hot young players…not sure if smaller market teams get more of the TV money. Perhaps F1 still needs to go further this way rather than some teams being in the Strategy Group and some not, and Ferrari getting special mention, like the Yankees to MLB.

            My general thinking is that the level of crisis that F1 may or may not be in depends on who you ask within F1. Some see less crisis than others, or at least do not have an issue with money nor spending it. So I think things can be tweaked but the money is still there. And the potential is still there. Otherwise they wouldn’t be able to afford to still kick the can down the road when it comes to capping costs. I’m not sure how much the lesser teams should be helped, as in, how much their survival ensures the health of F1 when it is the top teams that will always prevail anyway. F1’s general philosophy has been that F1 is hard and the pinnacle so not just anyone can enter and be immediately successful.

            I think there is a ton of potential yet to be explored, eg. with social media, and when the bottom line of BE and the top teams is truly affected to the point where they can no longer kick the can down the road, then they will adjust before seeing their bank accounts diminish. Eg. They can always return to free-to-air broadcasting if that is prudent, with coverage akin to what pay-per-viewers have been getting. I’m sure there are many things that can be done, but for me it starts with ensuring an exciting product on the track, and this year even with a dominant team there is excellent racing going on.

            It’s a new chapter, and the numbers aren’t all in yet as to how this season is going to shape F1 going forward. It’s an ever changing entity and this recent big change is still very new.

          • DaveD (@daved) said on 20th May 2014, 14:22

            @robbie,
            I agree that there is still much life in F1 and it may in fact be in better shape than many of us believe…i certainly hope so! And you make a good point, there is still plenty of money there, I just want to see it be a little more equitable so that more teams get into the mix. It just makes it more exciting to me to know that in a good year, a Williams, Sauber or Force India has a real shot at winning some races and might even compete for a championship. Clearly, Williams used to compete for championships so it’s possible. What changed for them to be so far out of it? Sir Frank is older, but he still puts teams together and draws good people. So is it only the money? I really don’t know in their case, but for most of the teams it seems to be a lack of spending for “little bits of carbon fiber on the front wing” as Luca likes to call it LOL
            Speaking of Luca, I like your comparison of Ferrari to the Yankees as it seems to be a good analogy. But I don’t think it’s good for the sport to let them have so much say in rules with their special veto power and being members of the “Strategy Group”. But in the end, I love F1 and don’t mean to be so negative. It’s a great sport and I know it will survive. I just want to avoid the rough times if possible.

            That TV revenue is a very complex situation. I’ve been on the inside of that discussion at so many companies where we fought about what we should give away as a teaser, what we should charge “base price” for and what should be “premium”. It’s really all guess work because you can never have enough data and it’s different in every market. What works best to maximize revenue in the US is often very different than what works in Asia.

          • Robbie (@robbie) said on 20th May 2014, 14:52

            @daved Fair comment.

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