Chase Carey fails to acknowledge the good Bernie Ecclestone has done for F1

Sign of the times to criticise but mighty man made his mark

Gulf News

My business acumen and appreciation or anticipation of vast personal profit at no cost to myself is a backdated failing that I shall have to endure forever more painful as it is.

Otherwise, the likes of The Beatles, with whom I spent six weeks on tour, The RollingStones, another accompanying job, Paul Newman, Robert Mitchum, Frank Sinatra, Richard Harris, Andy Williams, each the subject of my interview technique when I was showbiz writer for the Daily Mirror, would have been treasured autographs in a historic keepsake tome worth many, many dollars.

Then, when I switched to the job as Chief Sports Feature writer and spent hours with Sir Bobby Charlton, George Best, Arnold Palmer, Cassius Clay, as he was then, Sir Stirling Moss and Sir Jackie Stewart, Mike Hailwood, Alex Ferguson, Ray Wilkins, Pele and Eusebio, I failed yet again to harvest their valued signatures. How stupid or wasteful can you get?

But now, for reasons I won’t divulge, I am the proud possessor of a personal autographed testimonial from one Bernie Ecclestone, the mighty man of Formula One, a friend for 40 years, and a genius of a sporting authority who has rendered scores of people beneficiaries worth many millions of dollars without his wanting for a split second to be acclaimed as their mentor and provider of mind-boggling wealth.

And that will remain with me — unsold — as a reminder of our extended association and my honour at knowing him so well.

I have taken a fairly circuitous, name dropping, route to come to the principal point of my BR column this week — a fully justified condemnation of one Chase Carey, the new boss of Formula One, and my heartfelt defence of Bernie in the light of Carey’s criticism of Ecclestone, a betrayal to my mind, a lack of respect, and a completely unjustified outburst.

American Carey’s extravagantly curled moustache was the thatch over his mouthing of his ridiculous and astonishing snipe at Ecclestone as a block on the progress of F1. And he accused the 85-year-old of a despotic reign of “divide and conquer.”

He did, I suspect reluctantly, credit Ecclestone with: “We all make mistakes. Nobody is perfect. Bernie took a business from decades ago and sold it to us for $8 billion. He deserves credit for what he has done — but in today’s world you need to market a sport. And the sport was not being marketed.

“Bernie’s style was to divide and conquer — to keep everything very close. But we want to be a spirit of a partnership. Bernie was always focused on the short term and our focus is long term and building a value. Some of the decisions made needed to have a better process and thought through.”

Ecclestone, who will have been hurt by the incoming new CEO’s summary of his ability and his record, has to his credit kept pretty tight lipped.

And here, I guess I am acting on his behalf when I say Mr Chase should rue his remarks and give Bernie the fulsome praise his selfless efforts over four decades have truly deserved.

Sure, he has reaped the rewards too. And is said to be worth £2.5billion (Dh11.8 billion).

But there are legions of others who rejoice in the benefits Ecclestone’s expertise has bestowed upon them and the sport.

He protests: “The only reason I ever said ‘no’ to anything was if I thought it was not a very good thing to do, or it did not produce any income for the shareholders.

“It was my job to ensure we got the maximum financially so we could make the company interesting to buy. And that is just what has happened. “The bottom line is we will have to see whether the new owners, Liberty, are right or not.”

If and when Mr Chase, or one of his cohorts, reads this defence of my old friend I wonder if I shall be as overlooked as Russian President Vladimir Putin who was initially ignored as an attender at his home country’s championship show.

In which case there could be a spare seat at Silverstone for the British Grand Prix in July.

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