Bernie Ecclestone: The highs and lows of ex-Formula 1 supremo after tax fraud verdict

Bernie Ecclestone – the former supremo of Formula 1 – has pleaded guilty to fraud at Southwark Crown Court on Thursday but has been spared jail.

The 92-year-old failed to declare more than £400 million of overseas assets to the government, namely a trust in Singapore with a bank account of around $650 million.

He was sentenced to 17 months in jail, suspended for two years. He has agreed a civil settlement of £652,634,836 in respect of sums due to HMRC over the course of 18 years.

The billionaire, who has courted controversy throughout his life, was in charge of F1 for over 40 years before relinquishing his role in 2017 when current owners Liberty Media took over the running of the sport.

The Independent takes a look at Ecclestone’s life and times through his tenure in motorsport and beyond:

1930 – Ecclestone born on 28 October, son of Sidney and Bertha Sophia, in St Peter, Suffolk.

1952– Marries first wife, Ivy Bamford, at 21-years-old. They have a daughter, Deborah, born in 1955. The pair divorce in the 1960s.

1958 – Entered two F1 races as a driver, at Monaco and Silverstone, after purchasing two chassis from the disbanded Connaught Formula One team. Failed to qualify for either race.

1972 – Buys Brabham F1 team for £100,000. Tastes success with Nelson Piquet’s two world titles in 1981 and 1983, though only records a best result of second in the constructors’ championship.

1974 – Forms the Formula One Constructors Association (FOCA). Played crucial role in negotiating F1’s television rights. Becomes chief executive in 1978.

Bernie Ecclestone was the boss of Formula 1 for over 40 years (Getty Images)
Bernie Ecclestone was the boss of Formula 1 for over 40 years (Getty Images)

1984 – Slavica Radic, later his second wife, becomes pregnant and second daughter Tamara is born. Marries Radic in 1985.

1988 – Sells Brabham for more than $5 million to Swiss businessman Joachim Luhti.

1988 – Ecclestone’s third daughter, Petra, is born in London.

1997 – Embroiled in a dispute with the Labour Party over tobacco sponsorship of Formula 1, in contrary to the new government’s health position.

After a meeting with prime minister Tony Blair alongside Max Mosley (a fellow Labour Party donor), the government make an exemption for F1.

2005 – Farce embroils the United States Grand Prix, with seven teams refusing to participate due to safety concerns over the Michelin tyres used. No compromise was reached, and only six cars (using Bridgestone tyres) started the race.

2008 – Radic files for divorce, which is settled in March 2009. She receives a reported settlement of $1 billion.

2009 – Crashgate. F1 descends into chaos after cheating scandal which saw Nelson Piquet Jr. deliberately crash a year earlier in Singapore to aid his team-mate, race winner Fernando Alonso.

It later emerges, in 2023, that Ecclestone and then-FIA boss Mosley knew about the scandal at the time. Felipe Massa is now in the process of pursuing legal action for damages, having lost the 2008 world title to Lewis Hamilton.

Ecclestone pictured with seven-time F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton (right) (Getty Images)
Ecclestone pictured with seven-time F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton (right) (Getty Images)

2009 – Ecclestone widely condemned after remarks that were positive about Adolf Hitler.

He said to The Times: “Terrible to say this I suppose, but apart from the fact that Hitler got taken away and persuaded to do things that I have no idea whether he wanted to do or not, he was – in the way that he could command a lot of people – able to get things done”.

Ecclestone later apologised for his comments.

2012 – Marries vice-president of marketing for the Brazilian Grand Prix Fabiana Flosi, 46 years his junior.

2014 – Paid a £60 million settlement to end a bribery trial in Germany without admitting guilt. Prosecutors had accused him of bribery of banker Gerhard Gribkowsky.

Ecclestone and his third wife Fabiana, 46 years his junior, married in 2012 (Getty Images)
Ecclestone and his third wife Fabiana, 46 years his junior, married in 2012 (Getty Images)

2017 – Removed from position as CEO of Formula One Group after its £6.4 billion takeover by Liberty Media. Retains title of Chairman Emeritus until January 2020.

2020 – Ecclestone has first son, Ace (Alexander Charles Ecclestone), at age 89.

2020 – Criticised by F1 and Lewis Hamilton after comments made in wake of the murder of George Floyd.

Ecclestone says to CNN: “In a lot of cases, black people are more racist than what white people are.”

2022 – Arrested by Brazilian authorities for illegally carrying a firearm while boarding a private plane to Switzerland. Ecclestone paid bail and was freed to travel to Switzerland.

2022 – Ecclestone says on Good Morning Britain that he would “take a bullet” for Russia president Vladimir Putin because he was a “first class person,” adding that Putin’s invasion of Ukraine was just a “mistake” that businessmen make.

He later apologised for his comments.

2023 – Pleaded guilty to £400m fraud. Sentenced to 17 months in prison, suspended for two years.