“No Angel: The Secret Life of Bernie Ecclestone” reviewed

Book review

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Tom Bower’s new book on Bernie Ecclestone has been eagerly anticipated. And not just because there are surprisingly few biographies of the tycoon who has dominated the sport for four decades.

Bower has previously written celebrated books on high-profile figures such as Conrad Black, Mohammed Al-Fayed, Gordon Brown and Richard Branson.

The latter book is a particularly stinging account which the subject denounced as a “foul piece of work” and “really rotten, nasty stuff”. Those quotes are blazoned on the dust jacket of “Branson” like badges of honour.

Is Bower’s work on Bernie Ecclestone likely to provoke such a condemnation? I suspect not – Bower has not given Ecclestone the scathing treatment he dished out to Branson.

The most surprising details in the book are not about his business deals, but his relationship with now-estranged wife Slavica.

Bower reports her public temper tantrums and humiliation of Ecclestone, an aspect was completely overlooked by the other recent biography of Ecclestone by Susan Watkins.

These passages have already drawn media attention following their publication in the Sunday Mail. Apparently they upset Ecclestone’s daughters more than the man himself.

This and Ecclestone’s early days are the smaller part of a book whose central theme is his growing domination over Formula 1 – although Bower makes repeated and telling references back to Ecclestone’s former life as a used car salesman.

Those who have read Terry Lovell’s 2004 biography “Bernie’s Game” will inevitably find some re-treading of familiar ground in the early part of “No Angel”.

The prose is succinct and fast-paced but at times it falls victim to the unavoidable problem of myriad company names, deals, offers and counter-offers making some portions complicated to follow.

What makes Bower’s work stand out is the access he had to Ecclestone. The man who is notorious for being less than forthcoming in interviews is quoted throughout the book.

His words give revealing new insights into F1’s most recent scandals: ‘spygate’, ‘crashgate’ and the showdown between FOTA, Ecclestone and Mosley in mid-2009.

As in his other works, Bower fires invective at lazy journalistic standards, criticising those who have gone before him for failing to test Ecclestone’s accounts and allowing myths to build up. He gets in a few more swipes at Branson, too.

Given Bower’s track record many might have expected him to present a damning account and a ‘smoking gun’.

Although it’s not as scathing as some of his other works, “No Angel” leaves you under no illusions about Ecclestone’s methods.

The surprise here is that while Bower’s portrait of Ecclestone confirms many assumptions about his tactics and razor-sharp business acumen, he also reveals an unexpected, more vulnerable side to his subject.

RaceFans rating

Buy “No Angel: The Secret Life of Bernie Ecclestone” by Tom Bower

“No Angel: The Secret Life of Bernie Ecclestone”
Author: Tom Bower
Publisher: Faber and Faber, 2011
RRP: �18.99 (UK)
ISBN: 9780571269297

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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24 comments on ““No Angel: The Secret Life of Bernie Ecclestone” reviewed”

  1. Wouldn’t waste my money.

    1. Agreed, i’ve got my Katie Price book to read yet!!!!

      But seriously, I did read the book Bowers wrote about Branson and it was a very harsh judgement and was quite frankly disgusting.

        1. I used to work for Fayed, and Bowens book was very accurate. He sacked Bowen because he would not write it like he wanted (i.e. lie), so Bowen realised that he could make more money with an unofficial version. I believe he did the same with the Stunted Dwarf.

          1. Stunted Dwarf

            LOL! Is that Branson? Reminds me of Tom Cruise’s nickname, the “Toothy Gnome.”

      1. I’m curious now! What sort of stuff did he say about him?

      2. Not read Bowers book, but I know people who knew Branson intimately (lived with and around him) for years, and describe him in pretty foul terms to say the least. Isn’t it good that not all biographies are laudatory?

      3. sounds like i’ve got my dad’s birthday present sorted then!

  2. It sounds good, but the question is is it much better than “Bernie’s Game”? And are the chapters based on the years since BG was released (2004- 2011) good enough to justify buying it?

    1. And are the chapters based on the years since BG was released (2004- 2011) good enough to justify buying it?


    2. I think that for a mere GBP 9.50 it might be worth the risk Ned, after all you have at least a weekend to spare now Bahrain is off!

  3. He’s about the size of an Angel,a small set of feathery white wings and he’s all set!

  4. Don Speekingleesh
    23rd February 2011, 19:48

    Glad to see it’s worth reading. Should have it on my Kindle tomorrow.

  5. Now I have Dido in my head.

    1. Yeah that occurred to me while I was reading it!

    2. Now, if she were in your bed, you’d be all set.

      1. There’d be no angels anywhere in that case.

  6. McLarenFanJamm
    24th February 2011, 11:55

    Just downloaded it on the Kindle app on my phone, can’t wait to read it!

  7. Couldn’t resist this at the price. Never read this kind of book before but really interested in the history of some of the deals, why there are certain grudges etc.

  8. …reminds me of the old Max and Bernie days, and their myriad off track antics…


    From open beak one tongue extending
    Repeats in call the shriek pretending,
    “I am the law, I am the ending,
    I have your heart, I have your spending.”

    L’etat c’est moi.

    While the second head in tilt displays
    An eye transfixed in stolid gaze,
    Upon the knot where it doth sit
    With claws sunk deep in legal writ.

    L’etat c’est moi.

    This bird of body girth unending
    Can only flop in flight pretending.
    While it’s two heads on necks entwined,
    Spin round about, unravel, then rewind.

    L’etat c’est moi.

    Is this our future, this our past,
    To stand forever with pleas held fast,
    And our reward, just duff and feather dander
    Falling from our own, this Uber-Overlander.

    L’etat c’est moi.


  9. I’m an admirer of Bower’s having read his Maxwell and Rowland books, but while I’ll read the Branson one I’ll not waste the time with ‘No Angel”.

  10. I just read the review by Pitpass editor Lawrence. Seems he heartfully dislikes it. Pretty funny to read him uncover all the wrong information in the book

    1. Yep. It’s actually a comically crap biography, riddled with errors. I’m glad I didn’t waste my money buying it.

  11. Well I’ve just finished reading Bower’s tome, borrowed from my local library so no cost, thank goodness, and it’s somewhat dire. Indeed the time-line is non-existent, and even I, who doesn’t know all the background to everything, can find stupid errors which shouldn’t be there. You’ve scored it too high – 2 out of 5 methinks.

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