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3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
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on 20 March 2011
The nearest thing to an authorised biography of Bernie. Lots of details and stories, and I think the early part of the book is quite interesting, the used car days, the racing, the involvemnet with driver management, and the early days fo the Brabham purchase, but the second half seems to get bogged down once it goes into Bernie's financial dealings for FOCA, and successive ventures.
Biggest problem is that I'm sure some of the stories have been cleaned up, and some stuff carefully omitted. You don't get to where Bernie is, without "breaking a few legs" or something similar, it's just too nice and simple, "he's a wonderful chap, buys his mother flowers", none of the real "Doug and Dinsdale" stuff.
However, compared to the alternative Tom Bower book, this is a work of genius.
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on 14 October 2011
This book paints Bernie Ecclestone in the loveable rogue, business is business mould.

Frequently the author describes a scenario and then informs the reader that this was a clear demonstration of the man's caring disposition (or his business is business attitude). I could see many of these scenarios in a completely different light. BE was required to authorise the books publication - I think this is very evident.

The thinking reader will see numbers of situations where the author allows BE's version of events to take precedent. Where the events are controversial, there is no questioning of these events by the author - or views from parties that would have been on the other side.

As such I don't see much point in buying this book - it simply does not penetrate enough.
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on 5 February 2011
I have a large collection of motor racing books and looked forward to adding this from the point that rumours about it having been written started to circulate.

I have been very disappointed. From very early on I began to get the feeling that this was a very sanitised biography. As with another review certain phrases began to grate and I found myself skipping through it, eventually giving up half way.

My copy is now in the care of our local Oxfam book shop and I hope that someone else does get pleasure from it. For me it was one of those rare failures, but there are so many good books around at the moment that I'm hardly short of something decent to read.
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on 26 January 2011
`Bernie, The Biography of Bernie Ecclestone', is written by Susan Watkins who is married to Professor Sid Watkins (ex-F1 medical guru). This was the only Ecclestone biography that I could find and it's been on my Wish List for years, literally.

This title has had more than one rescinded publication date and it has also had more than one cover photo. The present `Smilie Bernie' seems like the least appropriate but, I imagine, the one he insisted upon. (If the link still works, the previous `Cold, Lonely, Windy Bernie' seems much more suitable.)

Watkins is an accomplished biographer and her writing style is informal, extremely well informed (as you'd expect), bright and intelligent. She does well in explaining the bizarrely complicated business interests of Ecclestone and succeeds in telling a deep, almost bewilderingly multi-facetted story while managing to maintaining a sense of journey: you really do want to find out `what happens next'.

The author's style is not without it's irritating girly quirks though: `[Bernie's] sense of fun is always... just below the surface, fluttering like a jar-full of butterflies'. Fortunately, I only noticed two or three, appearing in the first half of the book. I also didn't like the whole attempt at making Ecclestone seem `cuddly': like many super-rich, super-successful people that I've read about, he seems perfectly happy to use people mercilessly and nothing, but nothing, is as important as making money. (Despite Watkins protestations that relationships are the most important thing to Ecclestone, wives, children, business colleagues and partners all fall by the wayside where his companies, and his energies to sustain them, never does - not under any circumstance whatsoever.)

One or two sections of the book made me so angry that I nearly stopped reading. The most offensive of these is Chapter 14 `Smoke Alarm', dealing with the previous tobacco sponsorship of Formula 1. We all remember Ecclestone's remarkable £1 million donation to the Labour Party (since returned) and the subsequent `permanent exemption' of Formula 1 from the tobacco advertising ban. Watkins describes the problem as all the (then Labour) government (and Tony Blair's) fault: the PM's advisers were in `a tizzy' and `disingenuous': `panic reigned in the Labour Party.' And, quoting Ecclestone, `It was third-rate behaviour by a bunch of clowns'. Ecclestone, on the other hand, was just `showing [his] approval for the [Labour] party's decision not to put up income taxes at the top rate'.

The bit that nearly stopped me reading was the re-iteration of `the lack of evidence proving tobacco sponsorship of Formula 1 caused people to start smoking', in spite of the fact that `[tobacco] companies would move their investment to circuits in Asia, the Pacific and South America... where... they wished to increase their sales.'

This, along with the cover photo changes noted above, illustrate the most unpalatable aspect of this book - and, indeed, why it has taken years to come to publication: Susan Watkins was apparently ready to publish by 2005 but her `contract with Bernie' prevented it. This tight, but, I imagine very necessary, contract has resulted in a portrait of Bernie Ecclestone as a surprisingly warm and fluffy person, but which also acknowledges that Ecclestone is hard as flint (particularly in business): this dichotomy simply does not sit well as you read.

In the end, Susan Watkins writes a very good biography. However, I ended up finding the book a bit of a slog at times. This was not due to any literary deficiencies but, bizarrely, because I found I disliked Mr Ecclestone so much. I've never had this before - and I've read stuff on some of history's worst. I'm a keen fan of Formula 1 and I've enjoyed several books about it (including Prof. Sid's). `Mansell' is the best by a vast margin, though Murray Walker's autobiography is very enjoyable too. Watkins' `Bernie' describes or alludes to most of Formula 1's behind the scenes shenanigans and so is a fascinating eye-opener in many respects - including the vastly complicated Silverstone scenarios. But Bernie Ecclestone is revealed as someone who would, and has, sacrificed anything and anyone for his businesses. For me, this truth darkened an interesting tale so much that, at times, it made it difficult to read. Still, a must have purchase for Formula 1 (and big business) fans.
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on 13 August 2015
tom bowers book on bernie ecclestone is really good and i enjoyed it throughly read some parts over and over again but this book by susan watkins is way, way better. unbelievable read when its back in stock I'm gonna get a couple to keep for years to come as my one has so many pages folded at the corners. 5*s plus.
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on 18 September 2012
This book left me with mixed feelings; obviously, the author thoroughly researched her topic and the book is pleasant to read, but, at the same time, you wonder to what extent the contents has been influenced by her friendship with "Bernie". The latter applies in particular to the last chapters of the book, where one starts wondering to what extent "greed" takes over from an honest intention to promote F1 racing as a sport...
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on 10 July 2011
A good read. Beyond the already known business knowledge and power of the man, we get a glimpse into the human side of the great man with entertaining anecdotes otherwise unknown to the Formula One fan or casual follower of Bernie dealings.

What started very well, let itself down somewhat when it came to what I was really interested in: his rise to power in Formula One. The beginnings of his career are told very well, and you are fully content that this books is about Ecclestone. Then when it comes to the Brabham ownership and Formula One supremo era in his life, it become more a report and account of Formula One and the supporting players - which includes Bernie - rather than his real involvement alone. Toward the latter stages in the book you get the feeling that his involvement in the book began to decrease or cease to be altogether, with less and less personal comment from him. This was of course originally an 'endorsed' biography (before being dropped by Bernie), however toward the end this shows, and as raised, becomes more of a Story about Formula One than a Story about Bernie.
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on 21 February 2011
As other reviewers have said this book paints Bernie in a favourable light and whether a family friend - as Susan Watkins is - was best best placed to act as a biographer is open to debate. However, we do get a picture of the human side of Bernie, so well hidden in those frustrating TV interviews where Bernie normally answers a question with 'lets wait and see'. Worshipped by some of his close associates, derided by others, Watkins unviels a sometimes lonely man, for all his millions, compulsively seeking the next deal. It is not all pro-Bernie either as some associates, like former Brabham design genius Gordon Murray, recount a degree of double dealing that cost them dear (but then tend to blame themselves whilst admiring Bernie for getting the better of them!). The early chapters dealing with Bernie's Suffolk childhood and his early days in the second hand car trade are fascinating and had the book stopped there I would have given it more stars. Whilst this is a book about Mr Formula One, there is too much racing with details of races that appear in many other books. This is not the author's - who is more used to historical subjects - strong point and a number of errors creep in (e.g. Bernie wanting Parmalat sponsorship on the car beacuse of the crisp blue and white colour scheme whereas it was actually mainly red with some blue for the first two seasons). There is also very little on Bernie's relationship with Max Moseley, something that is worthy of a detailed assessment.
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on 30 January 2011
The enigmatic Bernie Ecclestone lives a private life and I've always wondered what he's really like. This book provides quite a few clues. It charts Ecclestone's life from selling cakes at school to becoming a used bike and then car dealer to his his enormous wealth creation through the promotion of F1. There is much detail so the book appears to be well researched. I found it a very enjoyable read quite fascinating in places. Susan Watkins wites in a kindly style so there is not much criticsm of the way Bernie operates. I would have liked more information about the Mclaren spy scandal and the demise of Max Mosely as head of the FIA. Overall though if you want an insight into the life of this famous billionaire then I would recomend this book but understand it's rather biased in his favour.
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on 30 January 2011
Having followed F1 for several years I was interested to find out something about the man behind the scenes. This book delivered in all respects, painting a vivid portrait of Ecclestone during his rise to the top job in motorsport, including some fascinating insights into F1 in general. Very hard to put down.
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