"I've always felt that Bernie functions a bit like most people think the Mafia functions, and you can ask Bernie for anything, and if it's in Bernie's power, he'll do it. But then you're made. That's it. Then you owe him forever." (Ron Dennis, p345).
Susan Watkins's long-awaited biography of Bernie Ecclestone, published shortly before Christmas, is essentially a comprehensive list of all the deals that Bernie's done, and all the occasions on which he's out-witted people. It's extremely well researched, but short on revelation. Moreover, the latter half of the book, covering the labyrinthine politics and finance of the post-Brabham years, is about as interesting to read as a telephone directory. There's sufficient raw material here to make a good book, but the final product lacks the influence of a really good editor.
One shocking episode which the book does cover rather well, is the manner in which Bernie stitched-up Gordon Murray, the chief designer and technical director and race engineer and operational director of Brabham during the years in which they won two World Championships.
Up until the mid-1980s, Murray worked 18-hour days for Bernie, on a salary of £30,000, sometimes taking prescription drugs to cope with the exhaustion levels. Gordon apparently owned half of Brabham at this time, but eventually decided that he wanted out. A long meeting was convened with Bernie, and Murray recalls that "He convinced me that we were so far in debt that if I got my half of the company, I would be paying somebody...and he got me to sign a bit of paper resigning as a director...After fifteen years and two World Championships...'We'll pay you £30,000 and that's it'. Later he sold Brabham for five and a half million quid. My fault was believing it wouldn't happen to me...because I watched him do it to everyone else, you know, that's what he's good at...I watched and I thought 'He's never gonna do that to me after fifteen years and two World Championships', and in the end I got exactly the same treatment."