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Saturday, 5 March 2011

World-Class Race Track Coming To Zagreb Area? / Petra Ecclestone...Confessions Of A Heiress Who Works Hard For A Living

An aerial view of the newly planned 'Motodrom Zagreb'.  A possible future home to Formula-1 racing. (Photo:Igor Krlaj/Pixell)

Updated post: petra-tamara-slavica-do-croatia

This one isn't all that earth-shattering, but for some strange reason I felt drawn to post it here.  Besides, compared to the local Starbucks coffee shop and 7-11 around here, this is much more interesting. (Long story) Now, I'm not a Formula-1 racing expert or follow it religiously like some people, but I don't mind watching it at all if I come across it on television at home or elsewhere. (Very rare in the sports bars around here though)  I'll pick it over lots of other sporting events any day.  Then it dawned on me, because it mentioned Bernie Ecclestone, who's the billionaire CEO of Formula-1 racing. (Known in racing circles as the "Formula-1 Supremo")  And then I remembered from a previous addition to another forum in the past, that his daughters, heiresses Petra Ecclestone and Tamara are actually half Croatian. ( I totally get one of the quotes attributed to Petra' mom, regarding her feeling more Croatian as opposed to British, there's nothing wrong with that.   I feel very much the same, especially when I used to live near little Portugal in another city, and spending time surrounded by stooges in various  parts of  Cowtown Canada the last while too, and how)....Now some may consider that "not proper", "politically incorrect",  or misconstrued as ...who knows what?, but screw political correctness. Ask a Chinese person or those people you see and hear all the time on the bus, at the grocery store etc, always talking just their language on the cellphone or to friends, the same question.  You can't deny how you feel about yourself, your identity, or even about hairstyles, your favorite pizza toppings, your shampoo or even about your preferences of which shoes to buy at the shoe store or salad dressing for your salad.

Petra and Tamara's mother Slavica Ecclestone, ( Born Slavica Radić) is a former Armani fashion model and was  patron of the non-partisan British-Croatian Society .  All 3 have visited Croatia for sun, fun and relaxation.  Even though now divorced, Bernie also still  vacations on the Croatian coast, usually in one of his yachts, and loves the scenery and visiting the coastal towns . A perfect article to mention Petra, Tamara, Slavica and their Croatian connection into this post.  Just makes for an overall interesting addition here. I was previously only sightly acquainted with the so-called royal family of Formula-1, so this was an interesting one to do. You learn something new everyday.  I also added a short article regarding "The Supremo" of F-1's fairly recent mugging.  It seems running F-1 is not all race cars and roses.   Anyway, below is just a brief intro to the Ecclestones to go along with the original F-1/Motodrom Zagreb news article.  Besides, It would be pretty cool to be able to catch a Formula-1 race in Croatia sometime down the road. Very cool indeed. Majko mila! To če biti super!!

*July 8, 2011. Update- This Formula-1 has been put on the backburner, but as of now is still a go. The permit, property and signature related red tape stuff has pushed back the construction date, but it is still planned for just outside of  Zagreb.  There's always complications and plenty of red tape with projects like this. Lots of projects going on around Zagreb these days, with the very important Zagreb Airport expansion officially starting as well finally. Hopefully sometime this decade)

World Class Race Track Coming To Zagreb Area?



Federation Internationale de L’Automobile (FIA) and architect Hermann Tilke are looking to build a race track just 15 minutes from Croatia’s capital Zagreb.

The project has also piqued the interest of Formula 1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone, the daily Vecernji List writes.

The race track would be licensed for several races, including GT1, WTCC, MOto GP and carting.

The project is estimated at 250 million Euros, with all the money coming from private investors. The Croatian government has promised, however, to do everything legally allowed to make the bureaucratic procedure in receiving the needed permits as easy as possible.

The track would be in operation 300 days per year, with time until its completion estimated estimated at 18 to 20 months.

Some footage of the thrills of Formula-1 racing through the years, which may soon be coming to Zagreb.

...And on the topic of Ecclestones.....

The Hot Heiress Who Works For A Living ...

 Petra Ecclestone (Paris who?) ..spends extra time with the Croatian TV crew for interviews, her mother is Croatian afterall. ( Photograph: Henry Bourne)


Related posts: petra-ecclestone-gets-engaged





*Updated post: petra-tamara-slavica-in-croatia

At the very best of times, Monaco is ridiculous. It's 0.76 square miles of gilded vulgarity; the spiritual home of the over-tanned super-rich, a bored, braying, cosmetically altered crowd that descends on Monte Carlo at regular intervals to avoid entirely legitimate taxes and parade about in a selection of inexplicably ugly clothes. It's the principality that taste forgot - and boggle-eyed greed embraced. Every other car is a Ferrari, every fifth one is a million-pound Bugatti; you'll pay €5 for a can of Diet Coke if you're lucky and something in the region of €25 for a smallish chicken salad. Even in the teeniest, least significant of street-side pizzerias you have to pop your yacht keys on the table before you'll get any shrift from the waiting staff, who only bother with the billionaires.

At the very best of times, Monaco is ridiculous. Oh, but now - when the rest of the world languishes in a recession, when everyone who hasn't already lost their job is worried that they might - Monaco seems like a horribly inappropriate joke.

It is the weekend of the Monaco Grand Prix. Monaco is worse, even, than usual, because anyone who is anyone (and loaded) is here at the same time. Rows and rows of private jets idle on the runway at Nice airport; their occupants are helicoptering the 40 kilometres to Monte Carlo, where they'll join the rest of their parties on the monster boats that bob about in the harbour dwarfing the town and blocking the horizon. Either that or they'll head for the Hotel Columbus - David Coulthard's venture into hospitality - where they'll stay in €6,000-a-night suites.

The Ecclestone clan pictured before the highly publicized divorce between Slavica and Bernie.

Monaco is not oblivious to the recession. It's not untouched. The hoteliers say that the English - both the rich and the tourist variety - are conspicuously absent, scared off by the falling value of the pound. Also, they say, corporate trade is not as lucrative as it once was. Minibars remain unravaged; champagne aperitifs are not quite the thing. Town gossip focuses on whose fortune has shrunk from three billion to two billion over the course of the past four short months. That - and how insufferable Jenson Button has become since he hit a winning streak. The one in Monaco is that the more the super-rich suffer, the flashier they become in an attempt to detract from the truth.

I'm here to meet Petra Ecclestone. She is the youngest daughter of self-made billionaire and Formula One CEO Bernie Ecclestone and his ex-wife-of-three-months, Slavica. Petra is 21 years old, the heir to a billion-pound fortune; a 5ft 8in Glamazon with legs that end where most people's necks begin, and hair that is bleached Rich Heiress Blonde. She was born into Formula One royalty - as Ecclestone's daughter, she's practically as revered as Albert of Monaco himself - and clearly she should be horrendous. Spoilt, overindulged and hopelessly disconnected from the world outside of her moneyed, cosseted existence. But she is not.

Pictured with her sister Tamara,  dressing it down a bit while shopping.  Although  Petra is known for  looks and money, the Ecclestones are less well known for the time and large sums of money they donate to  worthwhile charities and causes. (One must remember though, they're not the saviours of mankind sent to get rid of all the worlds problems) Petra is very grounded and hard working with her own career. (Photo

Ecclestone is in Monaco, partly for the Grand Prix ("I've been coming every year since I was four, so for me, it's a bit ..." She trails off. Boring, I suggest. "Erm ... Well ..." She doesn't want to say boring. Normal, then? "Yeah. Yes. Normal"), but mainly because she's got a fashion label to promote. The Amber Lounge fashion show is a big, bold, Swarovski-studded pre-race fandango, produced by Sonia (sister of Eddie) Irvine. There's an auction (all funds will go to the Elton John Aids Foundation; David Furnish will preside) and a catwalk show of Petra Ecclestone's menswear label Form, alongside the latest offerings from brands like Elizabeth Hurley Beach. Form is a super-luxe collection of cashmere separates and low-key tailoring; for the purposes of the runway show it'll be modelled by an assortment of Formula One drivers, among them Jenson Button, who goes on to win the race in two days time, and last year's darling (and winner), Lewis Hamilton. The F1 drivers were happy to offer their services as a favour to Bernie. Elizabeth Hurley, Arun Nayar, David Walliams, Princess Beatrice and Bernie (naturally) will sit in the front row of the show, alongside Prince Albert himself. Although, Petra will tell me, Albert always leaves halfway through.

She isn't sure why.

I first met Petra Ecclestone at her Knightsbridge studio, two days before both she and I flew to Monaco (I went on EasyJet; Petra on Bernie's private jet). She was being photographed in Form's London HQ, a big fifth-floor space situated a block or two down Brompton Road from Harrods. Rails of Form samples, of well-tailored, quietly luxurious suits and shirts and olive-green trench coats, surrounded us; Ecclestone's staff bustled about, usefully. Ecclestone wore lime-green Hervé Léger and posed - a little awkwardly because she was, she said, not really comfortable with all that - in the middle of her room. It was immediately apparent that Petra Ecclestone was not nearly as showy or attention-seeking as you might expect. She was not stupid or loud, patronising or especially demanding. She was quiet and self-contained to the point of being somewhat distant; closed off, a little aloof. But at one point she laughed, and it was snorting, goofy, unconsidered, and sweet. Later she'll tell me: "I do find myself quite funny."

I meet her again in Monaco. It's the morning of the Amber Lounge event. We're sitting in the lobby bar of Coulthard's Columbus, which is where she's staying. Ecclestone is drinking tea and wearing a yellow sundress. She burned her shoulders the day before. "I thought I'd be OK, because I already had a little bit of brown," she says. I'm not sure if this is jet-set parlance or the slightly mixed-up English of the daughter of a Croatian supermodel. "So I didn't put any factor on. But then - I wasn't. Ha Ha!!"

Some footage of Petra introducing her "FORM" menswear collection in Berlin in 2009. Source:  (Since the time of this post, she's moved onto designing her own line of "Stark" handbags:

She's a little twitchy, a little nervy. She says she didn't sleep because she's worried about the show. About what, precisely? "Everything. That the clothes won't arrive on time, that the drivers will be late. I stress. I'm a control freak. Everything has to be done on time. You have to hit deadlines. I'm a perfectionist. I expect it from everyone who works with me."

Are you a strict boss?

"Yes. Very," she says, and she laughs again, but only because it's true.

Are your staff - there are seven of them in all - are they scared of you?

She pauses.

"I don't know. Sometimes. I'm nice, but then ... I guess they have to know their place."


Petra Ecclestone was born in December 19th 1988, the second daughter of Bernie (who began making money by trading secondhand motorcycle parts) and Slavica; her sister Tamara is older by four years. She grew up in London but spent significant quantities of her childhood touring around the world with the more Formula One-inclined elements of the jet set. It was an extraordinary lifestyle, but it took Ecclestone a little while to realise that. "I thought it was normal. When I was at school I thought everyone was in the same position. When you're younger, you do. I felt like, going on my dad's plane, everyone was doing it! Everyone had their own planes! Ha ha!" When did she realise they didn't? She looks embarrassed. "Quite ... late on. Like 12! 13! Yeah!" At which point she switched her contract mobile phone to Pay As You Go and started wearing Reebok classics and Adidas tracksuits in the interest of blending in. She went to Camden, but she got a knife pulled on her. "It didn't go very well. I haven't been back since. They must have seen me coming! Everyone could see it! Of course they could! That girl's a joke!"

 She also has cool eclectic taste in art as well as fashion.  Her professional demeanor makes her not your typical "heir head". For other interesting tidbits about Petra, see HERE (Photo: Mel Yates)

Although it would be very easy to just "par-taay" her days away and be absolutely carefree, Petra is proving that she's made of sterner stuff.  Running your own fashion line takes vast amounts of time, effort and creativity. During the week she has a typical 9-5 office day.  It had even been rumoured (By unverified sources) that because of her hectic schedule and prior commitments, Petra had to turn down the role of Dora Maar in a possible future Roman Polanski feature film. The film project has since been reworked with other producers and the role of Dora Maar has instead been taken by Gwyneth Paltrow. (Photographs by Nicky Emmerson. Styled by Nicky Yates) Story:

Ecclestone says she always wanted to be a fashion designer. She's vague about the evolution of her ambition. "It's always been my passion. When I was younger I was always drawing sketches. I loved fashion. I was quite experimental with clothes. I loved making my own clothes and things." When I ask her why she chose to make menswear rather than the more glamorous, obvious option of womenswear, she ditches the whimsy for something much more business-like and impressive. "Bigger niche," she says brusquely, pragmatically. "Womenswear was too saturated." She got a place at Central Saint Martins after finishing her A-levels, but decided not to take it up. "I wanted to get on with it." Her father arranged for her to work with Edward Sexton, the Savile Row tailor who'd made Bernie's suits for 30 years and who once trained up Stella McCartney, so had form in the field of apprenticing celebrity daughters and turning them into fully functioning tailors.

What are the logistics on collaborating with Sexton, I ask. Who does what, exactly?

"My dad contacted him first, and I'd give him my designs and he'd kind of make it into a 3D format, and basically Edward's no longer working for Form."

No? I say, surprised. "No," she says firmly. I look inquiring. She offers no further information. "Basically we have the patterns that he's done and the block patterns don't change. Basically."

Ecclestone will show her second collection for Form at that night's catwalk show. She sold the first collection to Harrods without the involvement of Bernie. She wangled the meeting with the menswear buyer for the department store; she took it alone, she closed the deal. She was 19 years old at the time. Form went in store in October 2008 and became the third-best-selling label on its floor, outperforming Dior menswear. This is not shabby, especially when you consider that Form's jumpers sell for something in the region of £420 a pop; the coats are £1,800 at the very least. (Bernie owns two Form jackets. He went into Harrods, unaccompanied, to purchase them. He did not pay mates' rates.)

So it's started well, I say. What does she want from her company, ultimately?

"I want it to be a worldwide brand. I want global recognition. I want big stand-alone stores across the globe. I want the Form logo, the laurel wreath, to be as recognisable as the Ralph Lauren pony."

Goodness, I say. Is failure an option? "Not really. I don't waste time doubting myself."

So you just assume you won't fail?


She's planning a womenswear equivalent, which will be younger, more affordable, fresher, funkier, she says; it'll hit the shops next autumn. And then?

"I'd like to get into charity work."

It would be easy to pull Ecclestone apart. She's achieved a lot, and she's achieved it young, but she's done it with Daddy's money, secure in the knowledge that if it all goes wrong it most certainly would not be awful for her. She desperately wants to prove herself in her own right, she says as much; but sooner or later she'll be so rich that I'm not sure that will be relevant. I ask her if she made a business plan for Form, and she says airily: "Oh no. I don't really believe in those, to be honest. It's weird. I feel like you can't really know what's going to happen in the future. I just feel like my dad has told me to judge every... thing as it happens." But of course a business plan is not necessary when one is not chasing investment for a fledgling company.

Petra and Tamara Ecclestone (who both speak Croatian very well, btw) attend The X-Files: I Want To Believe film premiere held at the Empire Leicester Square on July 30, 2008 in London, England. (Photo: Jon Furniss/WireImage)

So yes, it would be easy to pull Ecclestone apart - but it wouldn't be fair. Whatever else, Ecclestone works hard. She's a grafter born into a society that barely recognises the idea of work. She says she's in her office by 8.30, that she doesn't leave until six, that she does that five days a week and gets twitchy at weekends, that she can't really see the point in holidays and that she doesn't drink ("At all. Never got a taste for it. Don't invite me out, I'm very boring") or party ("I think people do that only when they're not really happy with themselves"), and I believe her. She says she simply cannot imagine not working. "I'd die." Furthermore, I'm not sure Bernie's a complete blessing as a father. I ask Ecclestone whether Bernie is furiously proud of her, assuming she'll say: Yes! But instead she says, slowly, thoughtfully: "My dad is a man of very few words. It's hard to know what he's thinking." I ask if he gives her advice, and she says: "Ha! No. He comes to the office and he cleans up. Or ... not cleans. He moves things. He's really tidy and particular. Everything has to be done in his way. So it's not that he comes to the office and dispenses business advice. He comes to the office and ... just ... moves things." Is that helpful? "No! It's aggravating."

I can't imagine that her parents' high-profile divorce - a subject matter I've been told, by the relevant authorities, I must steer very clear of in interview or risk the wrath of Bernie - has been easy for her. When is it ever? Still, I ask her if she's happy, and she says she definitely is. She's got her dogs, and her boyfriend of three years - a teetotal 26-year-old wine collector called James Stunt who "thinks I am crazy. He thinks I am absolutely mad for working so hard", but who is rich enough for Ecclestone to know that "he's not with me for who I am and what I have. And I'm not with him for those reasons either."

Backstage at the Amber Lounge fashion show is a gaudy, shiny, too-tanned bun fight. Eastern European models with Carmen rollers in their hair wander about, await further instruction, look scathing. The F1 Wags - who will model a series of cocktail gowns as the finale to the show - tweak and preen. Outside, the crowd drinks champagne by the side of the venue's swimming pool and waits for the show to begin. Richard Branson flirts with a German all-girl string quartet who are dressed in matching cerulean blue and wielding transparent-plastic, super-modern versions of their instruments. David Furnish is resplendent in shrimp pink. David Walliams is being slightly overlooked by the press in favour of the more internationally famous Elizabeth Hurley and Arun Nayar.

It has been rumored that in the future Petra intends on freeing women from the shackles of drab mandatory generic lady suits. It's not known what her views on pleats, beef jerky, birth control, the new Sears elastic waistband pants and mom jeans are.  Joking aside, you can check out Petra's creations on her FORM Clothing website at  (Since the time of this post, she's moved onto designing her own line of "Stark" handbags:

Ecclestone arrives with an hour to go. She will oversee the dressing of her models in a little while ("I won't actually be, like, groping them! Obviously! I'll let someone else do that!") and she says she's far less stressed than she thought she'd be. The European fashion TV crowd descends on her for endless soundbites and video links; she provides them. She spends extra time with the Croatian crew - Slavica is Croatian, after all. Ecclestone says she thinks of herself as more Croatian than British.

The Croatian TV presenter is earnest and bespectacled. Unexpectedly, he asks: "How do you know when someone likes you for you, and not for your name and money?"

"You don't," Ecclestone says flatly, and I feel very sorry for her.

But her clothes are present and correctly pressed, and her driver models are arriving, gradually. Jenson Button - who has a face like a lightly tanned weasel and a body like a lean god - climbs into an excellent, not remotely shiny charcoal suit. (Petra Ecclestone loathes shiny suits, the kind clueless sportsmen favour when off duty.) He is surrounded by acolytes and paparazzi. Tamara Ecclestone - a pretty, ultra-bronzed brunette in a floor-length Grecian-drape purple frock - rams a microphone in his face. She works as a host and a presenter for Sky Italia's F1 coverage.

"What do you think of my sister's clothes?" she asks.

"Don't really know. I like these shoes," says Button gaily.

"Thanks, Jenson!" Tamara says, and wafts off.

I ask if I can grab a word for the magazine.

"Oh no," Button says, without looking at me. "I'd rather not do an interview."

I'm not after an interview so much as ... a sentence. "I'd rather stand here and look pretty." He pauses. "Well," he adds. "Try and look pretty." He walks off.

Insufferable, I think.

The models for the Elizabeth Hurley beachwear label clatter backstage in varying states of leopard-printed undress; the F1 drivers nudge one another and get the giggles. Lewis Hamilton has yet to arrive; he's still on a boat somewhere. Bernie's gone awol. "I've had one missed call from him," Ecclestone says, waving her mobile phone around. She's agitated. "And now he's not answering."

It all goes off OK in the end. Bernie turns up last minute; so does Lewis Hamilton. The clothes are well received (as they should be. Form is infinitely more chic than anything the super-rich crowd is currently sporting) and Ecclestone makes a nervous tour of the runway on the arm of Jenson Button when it's over.

The auction commences; star lot is dinner with Elton John and David Furnish, and it goes for €145,000. By 9.30, the Amber fashion event is done and dusted, and the crowd disperses. They amble off for insanely overpriced dinners in town, discussing the new 50% UK tax bracket.

Petra Ecclestone stands in a huddle with her father and sister, her sister's boyfriend (who is also Tamara's PR) and Princess Beatrice.

I wave at her. "Oh!" she says, and she smiles. "Bye bye. It was very nice to meet you."

The super-rich are, by and large, ridiculous. Clearly, they shouldn't be allowed. But Petra Ecclestone is not nearly as bad as she could be, and that in itself is no mean feat. And she does know how to knock up a decent suit.

Ecclestone´s daughter to produce her fashion line in Croatia

Petra and mother Slavica in Sisak, Croatia. Photos: Miroslav Kiš / CROPIX  (In this photo Petra has wisely decided to mix and match. Pulling out the clubs when expecting the diamonds, leaving the paparazzi heads spinning.   A circa. 1974/75 "It's my ex-boyfriends" single-zippered,  biker style black leather jacket, reminiscent of Steve McQeen films, bordering on psuedo 80's punkish, with a totally unexpected fashion touche of adorable hot pink black ballerina pumps, all complimenting nicely her slim fitting dark charcoal grey denims. Nice touch, works for me.  The added white tee under the plaid shirt gives the no-nonsense, hard working girl image immediately.  Éminence grise, but in a cute, fashionable and practical sense that says "Hey people, let's get the show on the road already."   There is no sense of cowboy oafishness or pompous gawdiness emanating from this eclectic display whatsoever. Westernish modernism, hippyish and practical but not oafish hillbilly/country with that redneck bucket o' bacon/beef jerky impression.  All the while emanating the aura of those unspoken words...."Puleeeze, Get that fuc***** ridiculous  cowboy hat away from me." 

 The large over sized sunglasses are of course the tour de force in this thoughtfully cute, yet provocatively casual put together ensemble. "Here for a good time, not a long time" as the saying goes, is the impression the receptionist will get.  (Which means if she walks into the room, you better put the twinkies down, hide the Harelequin paperback novel and start working.  You can read it on the bus on your way home or when at the Starbucks. (Wondering when Flavio or Ken is going to walk in and wisk you away to his carriage in time for the night flight to his chalet in Zurich in time for the big soiree and nude skiing)  Lastly, almost a coup de grâce if you will, her choice of a non-tawdry simple pink cover for her Blackberry so as to not cause any unnecessary clashing is a magnificent choice.  This darker avant-garde ensemble gives the impression of a businesswoman who's ready to rock it in the fashion scene, yet prepared to go for cocktails or filet mignon at a moments notice for those emergency business meetings about the backordered buttons and zippers.  A keen and serious  approach to being a fashionista, yet a Haute couture that is edgy, funky and desirous at the same time in a cutesy, rebel kind of way.  An impression that makes you wonder why anyone cares about non-black leather jacket wearing people at all.  Hipster Hippy meets Bohemian artist. Very suitable for shopping, art galleries. dance clubs, concerts, ice cream or even dry martinis at the jazz club as well.  Will these fashion choices work for Marge at the bar&grill, or Tracy in the photocopy room on casual Fridays?. ..Who's to say?..Not bloody likely, however it will give them something to reach for.) My vote:

Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone's daughter Petra Ecclestone will produce her designer clothing in her mother's homeland Croatia.

Accompanied by her recently-divorced mother Slavica Radic Ecclestone, Petra Ecclestone visited the Siscia textile factory in the central Croatian town of Sisak yesterday (Mon).

The two Ecclestones were accompanied by family friend Zlatko Matesa, the president of the Croatian Olympic Committee and a former Croatian prime minister.

The daily newspaper Jutarnji List has reported Petra Ecclestone has agreed Siscia will produce her designer clothing under the brand "Form."

Petra and Slavica at the Siscia textile factory in Sisak, Croatia.  Her 'FORM' brand line of clothing is already world known and popular with travelling businessmen. A line of womens handbags are scheduled for summer 2011. (Since the time of this post, she's moved onto designing her own line of "Stark" handbags.

"This is the job of the century for Siscia. It is bigger and more important than the one we used to have with fashion giant Yves Saint Laurent. Petra is very young, but she is already a big name in the world of fashion design. Her fashion line already sells in Harrods better than Armani, Dior and others", Siscia owner Milan Stojanovic told the newspaper.

"My fashion line is for businessmen who travel a lot. Buyers are men who can pay 2,000 pounds for a jacket", Petra Ecclestone has been quoted as saying in Sisak.

Petra Ecclestone and Siscia plan to distribute the fashion line not only in Croatia but also in the rest of Europe and in Russia.

No Angel: The Secret Life of Bernie Ecclestone by Tom Bower – review

Tamara Ecclestone, Bernie Ecclestone, Petra Ecclestone and Slavica Ecclestone attend the Amber Fashion Show and Auction held at the Meridien Beach Plaza on May 23, 2008 in Monte Carlo, Monaco. (Photo: Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Men who bluff and bully their way to enormous fortunes are Tom Bower's special subject. His targets have included Robert Maxwell, Tiny Rowland, Mohammed al Fayed, Conrad Black and Richard Branson, so it was probably inevitable that Bernie Ecclestone, the billionaire ringmaster of Formula One, would one day wander into his authorial cross-hairs.

The son of a Suffolk trawlerman, Ecclestone was already sharpening his legendary commercial acumen in the school playground. Bower is not the first to tell the story of how he would complete two paper rounds before setting off for school; the money he earned would be spent on buns, sold on at a profit to his classmates. The deals are somewhat larger now. His most recent coup – executed last year, shortly before his 80th birthday – was to sign an agreement under which the Russian government will pay his organisation $280m over seven years for the privilege of holding an annual grand prix in Sochi, a Black Sea resort, while spending probably as much again on building a circuit for the purpose. The deal was concluded in a private 15-minute meeting between Ecclestone and Vladimir Putin, the latest world leader keen to do business with the beguilingly sinister 5ft 3in impresario.

Putin is probably one of the few people in the world who is not frightened of Ecclestone. Another would be Slavica Malic, a 6ft 2in Croatian model who, in Bower's gruesomely entertaining account, became the second Mrs Ecclestone in 1985 and secured a £750m divorce settlement – probably around a quarter of his total wealth – after leaving him 23 years later. Elsewhere, and particularly within the Formula One paddock, his power is absolute and questioned only by those with no regard for their future in the sport.

Mr Ecclestone pictured during one of his visits to Croatia.  Picking up some supplies and yum-yums in a mini-market and other fresh goodies at an outdoor farmers market in the coastal city of Zadar.  (Zadar is known for it's readily available fresh fruits and vegetables stalls, I know because I was at that same market) He played  it low key by being escorted away in a Ford Fiesta. (I noticed there are many paparazzi photos of Bernie buying groceries on the internet.  Sheesh! There's nothing more annoying than people staring and photographing you when you're deciding about which cereal, vegetables, keksi or sanitary napkins to buy)

*(As a personal sidenote, I really disagree and am at times disgusted with some of the statements from various religous types or professional gossipers that I've encountered over the last little while on the internet regarding the Ecclestones. "Living in sin", "greedy" "evil", "selfish", spoiled,  bla bla bla...all that crap.  I'm not even going to get into the tabloid stuff and cat clawing about supercial topics.   Those people really need to take a look at some of the dictators/politicians in the world, (maybe even in their own backyard) ,the religious hypocrites found everywhere,  self-righteous philosophical poseurs (aka Sunday morning televangelists)  and maybe a good hard look at themselves in the mirror first. (I don't see images of them being driven around in an armoured Cadillac with escorts, or hear stories about diamond encrusted  gold toilet seats)  People tend to forget the amount of money a Formula-1 racing event pumps into the local economy, and how the privelege of hosting a Grand Prix race can benefit tourism all year round. and not just for the city that is hosting it. The building of a race track to be used for a Formula-1 Grand Prix race can generate revenue and jobs all year round.  It's sooo easy to just point fingers and think you have it all figured out.  I've even come across totally warped comments, and I mean bizzare, about Petra's beauty marks. Yeah, that ridiculous.  I have a beauty mark myself under one eye.  Reminds me of the one time some guy I worked with in the contracting buisiness in the past, who didn't think Sarah McLachlan was hot because of her beauty marks. (Oh, that chick with those beauty marks)   How cowtarded is that? Just plain dumb.  (His wife left him and rang up a $2,000 cell phone bill on his account, so he was sleeping at his parents on the sofa at the time, but even he had some kind of bumps on his forehead and chin) My personal views on the Ecclestones? Especially Petra and Tamara?...Svaka čast i sve najbolje! To hell with the haters and the rest.)

That power was accumulated over a period of more than 30 years, during which, as Bower accurately notes, Ecclestone "transformed Formula One from a mere enthusiasts' sport into one of the world's most watched entertainments". After buying the Brabham team in 1971, on terms typically favourable to himself, and reorganising it with characteristic rigour, Ecclestone recognised that here was a little world ripe for the taking. With the assistance of Max Mosley, a qualified barrister and former driver and team owner, he assumed leadership of the teams in a war for control waged against the governing body, the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile, an organisation of blazered blusterers unused to being challenged. Deploying skills developed as a successful dealer in the tough postwar second-hand car trade, he made offers that amateurs could not refuse.

Footage of Tamara Ecclestone doing some television work in 2008.  

Tamara speaking Croatian (With Slovenian subtitles from Slovenian

At the end of this short clip Tamara briefly discusses her parents recent divorce for Croatian NovaTV.  

Ecclestone's great vision – which would set an example for sport in general, notably the English Premier League – was to see that the future lay in television rights, which had previously been distributed piecemeal and for peanuts, and to move his sport into the emerging markets outside Europe. When he successfully renegotiated the broadcasting rights, having leased them from the FIA, assigned them to his own company, started to charge real money and distributed a proportion of the proceeds to the teams, nobody objected. Even a minor percentage of something was better than the practically nothing they had been getting, and eventually that minor percentage made all the sport's leading participants very rich men indeed. Ecclestone himself, of course, had been getting richer still.

Bernie Ecclestone, Slavica Ecclestone, Petra Ecclestone and Tamara Ecclestone at the launch of FORM Menswear at Harrods on October 2, 2008 in London, England. (Photo: Eamonn McCormack/WireImage)

The key to his ultimate triumph was the election of Mosley as the president of the FIA. Together they battled the EU over the ban on tobacco sponsorship, and fought off the European competitions commissioner's disapproval of Mosley's extraordinary decision to extend his friend's lease on the sport's commercial rights to 100 years. An accomplished double act, suave patrician and brusque street-fighter, they specialised in keeping their opponents on the wrong foot, often expressing divergent opinions on some contentious issue or other before effortlessly reuniting in victory.

About 10 years ago Ecclestone saw the chance to make a real killing from his unique domination of a sport into which sponsors, equipment suppliers, motor manufacturers, broadcasters and governments were pouring billions. In a series of complicated manoeuvres, through which he sold and took back the commercial rights three or four times and pocketed several billion pounds in the process, the ownership of Formula One's revenue streams ended up in the hands of a private equity firm which made the purchase with the aid of £2.9bn borrowed from RBS's Fred Goodwin. The new owners employ Ecclestone as chief executive at a salary of £2.5m, plus fuel for his £40m private jet, on the unarguably correct grounds that no one else can do the job nearly as well as a man now in his ninth decade.

Bower does his best here, but Formula One's business dealings have always been camouflaged by smokescreens of secrecy and evasion, and to understand fully the events described between pages 223-237 and 260-267, for example, you would probably need to be Ecclestone himself, sitting at the centre of a web of holding companies with tax-shelter addresses. Somewhat clearer, although not new, is the description of his success in making further fortunes by toying with the existence of the British Grand Prix, an event he treats with the refined cruelty of a particularly vicious cat holding a fieldmouse between its paws.

Ecclestone himself has not been left entirely unscathed by success. His nose was bitten off by a Las Vegas casino owner's Alsatian dog a few years ago, and he has been expensively mugged outside his London home on a couple of occasions. The most recent assault took place at the end of last year, when his £25,000 watch was among items snatched by thieves. Since no opportunity to make money can be neglected, a few days after the incident the watch's manufacturer took out a newspaper advertisement showing his badly bruised face next to the slogan: "See what some people will do for a Hublot".

Nothing, however, has damaged him as badly as his encounter with New Labour in 1997, when he was invited to make a £1m-donation to Tony Blair's election campaign and encouraged by Michael Levy to turn it into an annual unrepayable "loan", on the clear understanding that Downing Street would reciprocate by helping Formula One in its fight to maintain its income from tobacco companies. In exposing the squalid machinations and duplicities of Blair, Levy, Peter Mandelson, Derry Irvine, Gordon Brown and their functionaries, Bower allows Ecclestone to emerge as the victim, the great manipulator caught, helpless and humiliated, in a net of politicians' lies.

Bower is not at ease with the language or the history of motor racing. Teeth will be ground at the assertions that 96 spectators were killed in the appalling crash at Le Mans in 1955 (the correct number is 83), that the Renault team copied Ferrari in introducing turbocharged engines in the late 1970s (the reverse was the case), or that the original venue for the 1981 Las Vegas Grand Prix was to have been the Bellagio hotel (which was not built until 1998). Important names are misspelt, sometimes repeatedly, including those of the car dealer John Coombs (not Coomb), the Fiat boss Sergio Marchionne (not Marchione) and the engineer Alan Permane (not Permayne), who was "Witness X" in the notorious Crashgate hearings of 2009. These and other errors are mere details, perhaps, in Bower's attempt to paint a sweeping portrait of a very unorthodox tycoon, but they do tend to undermine faith in the description of more complex matters.

Perhaps nothing exemplifies Ecclestone's modus operandi as amusingly as the apparently coincidental publication, a couple of weeks before No Angel, of another biography. Susan Watkins, the wife of Formula One's long-time resident surgeon, is an old friend of Ecclestone and her book, completed in 2005, was intended to be the authorised version of his story. The subject, however, exercised his right to suppress the manuscript, which disappeared into limbo. Now, having granted Bower an unprecedented degree of access to his intimate circle, he has also quietly permitted the appearance of Bernie:  The Biography of Bernie Ecclestone (Haynes), which inevitably paints him in an almost wholly favourable light. Thus, with the minimum of effort, a little thunder has been stolen from a book which had been expected, on Bower's past form, to contain more explosive revelations than turns out to be the case. Look after the small victories, Ecclestone might say, and the big ones will take care of themselves.

Richard Williams's The Death of Ayrton Senna is published by Penguin.

F1 Supremo Bernie Ecclestone Mugged and Beaten by 4 Nasty Uncouth Robbers, Police Think One Of Them Had Halitosis, 2 Had Terrible B.O.

Within just hours though, Mr Ecclestone was back at his desk running the Formula-1 empire.  Due to Bernie's acquaintances in the higher echelons of British society and influence over burly and non-burly men with good eyesight and objects in their pockets, it may be a good thing if the police find the perpetrators first  rather than...hmmm..hmmm..hhmm.hmm. Photo: Doug Seeburg

FORMULA One supremo Bernie Ecclestone unveils his injuries yesterday after his savage mugging.

The 80-year-old - ambushed with new girlfriend Fabiana Flosi, 31 - said as he lifted his dark glasses: "I'm OK, everything's going to be all right"

Shortly after being accosted, Bernie emailed his photo to be used in an advertisement for Hublot, the make of watch that was stolen. Source:

Battered Bernie, sporting a horrific black eye and cuts, spoke outside the London HQ of his empire where four robbers punched and kicked him to the ground.

He earlier admitted: "I'm feeling it now - it was a good whacking. They said nothing to me, just went on the attack. I took a kick or two in the head and went unconscious.

"They took our watches and a few other bits and pieces but I never carry much money or expensive jewellery. I see a figure of ?00,000 mentioned, but that's f*****g bollocks, F***ing A******s!" "They won't be going F***** far on what they took off us. I'll find them f*****s, make them regret f*****g with me, they'll s*** their f*****g trousers, bloody p*****s.  I'll squeeze the S*** so hard out of their pigeon necks, their slimy grinning mouths will be s******* c*** from between their teeth,  they'll wish never left their mothers rancid c***!!!" Do they think I just fell off the f***ing turnip truck like some w***** coming in from Watlington?"! I'll call Petra to get M*** and R***** to find them and make it look like an accident, bloody useless drivel!

Bernie - whose Brazilian model girlfriend had her earrings torn out in Wednesday's attack - defiantly returned to work just hours after treatment for a head injury. Cops hunting the gang fear the muggers are stalking the rich and famous.

Bernie's daughter Tamara, 26 - whose mum Slavica, 53, was divorced by the pint-sized billionaire last year - said: "This has happened to a lot of friends and now family. It's hideous they could attack someone of his age. It was probably those dreadful Serbs sneaking into the country after the war, the ones all going around saying that they're Hungarians or Romanian or Greeks and such"

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