August 12, 2022

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Bernie Ecclestone has sparked controversy over his comments on Vladimir Putin (Picture: Marcelo Machado de...
Bernie Ecclestone wearing sunglasses
Bernie Ecclestone has sparked controversy over his comments on Vladimir Putin (Picture: Marcelo Machado de Melo via Getty Images)

Bernie Ecclestone is facing a backlash for saying he would ‘take a bullet’ for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

He delivered the controversial statement in an interview on Good Morning Britain, and also commented on Nelson Piquet using a racial term directed at Lewis Hamilton.

But it is not the first time the 91-year-old businessman and sports tycoon has got into hot water for controversial comments about politics.

So, who is Bernie Ecclestone and how much is he worth?

Who is Bernie Ecclestone?

The son of a trawler captain, Ecclestone started his business career building of the UK’s largest used car dealerships after the Second World War. But he is most well-known for his time as chief executive of the Formula One Group, which helps manage F1 races and controls the commercial rights to the sport.

While he is known for managing in the sport, he actually started his racing career as a driver on his local track at Brands Hatch, Kent, in the late 1940s and early 1950s. But after several accidents, he retired and moved into business instead.

A young Bernie Ecclestone at a race track.
Bernie Ecclestone returned to racing in the 1970s (Picture: Sergio del Grande via Getty Images)

After making a huge profit from investments in property and moneylending, he re-entered the sport in late 50s, managing drivers and entering his own racing cars – driven by professional drivers.

His rise to fame began in the 1970s, however, after buying Formula One team Brabham and making them and their drivers world famous champions.

He sold the team in the late 80s and went on to bulldozer his way through the F1 leadership and winning the ability to sell TV rights broadcasters through his FOPA group, which is now the body which manages the promotion of F1 – arguably now the most important role in the sport.

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Despite not officially having a stake in politics, he has never shied away from expressing his views on the major topics of the day.

On Thursday, he described Vladimir Putin – condemned by many for an increasingly autocratic leadership style and his decision to invade Ukraine in February – as ‘first class’ and declared he would ‘take a bullet’ for the Russian President.

It follows his arrest at an airport in Brazil in May for carrying a gun illegally, before his planned trip from Sao Paolo to Switzerland in his private jet.

Bernie Ecclestone and Vladimir Putin
Bernie Ecclestone is facing a backlash for praising Vladimir Putin (Picture: Clive Mason via Getty Images)

His first major controversy came in 1997, when it was revealed that he had lobbied the New Labour government to drop plans to ban tobacco advertising in F1 – a major source of income.

His most famous controversy lasted from 2006 until 2014, during which he was accused of bribing a former German banker to secure a favourable outcome in an F1 business deal. While the alleged offence took place in 2006, he paid a German court £60 million in 2014 to drop the trial.

Bernie Ecclestone wearing glasses.
Bernie Ecclestone has had many major controversies in his career (Picture: PA Images)

Others include seriously offensive remarks, including appearing to praise Adolf Hitler for being ‘able to get things done’, suggesting it was a ‘pity’ Jewish community leaders didn’t ‘sort the banks out’ during the 2008 financial crisis.

In the wake of the murder of George Floyd in the US and the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests, Ecclestone came under fire from F1’s only mixed race driver after saying that ‘black people are more racist than what white people are’.

How much is Bernie Ecclestone worth?

Forbes’ real-time estimate suggests his net worth is around £2.5 billion, making him one of the richest people in the country.

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The Sunday Times Rich List, published in May 2022, ranked him as the 72nd richest person in UK – again with an estimated net worth of £2.5 billion.

Another thing analysts agree on, though, is that his net worth has dropped by around £1 billion in the past 10 years. He was thought to have been worth around £3.5 in 2013/14.

MORE : Bernie Ecclestone declares he’d take a bullet for Vladimir Putin as he defends ‘sensible’ and ‘first-class’ Russian president in shocking GMB interview

MORE : Bernie Ecclestone tells Lewis Hamilton he ‘should be happy’ with Nelson Piquet’s apology for racial slur

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