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Ecclestone believes the next F1 CEO could be a woman
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Ecclestone believes the next F1 CEO could be a woman
Posted By: James Allen  |  01 Mar 2011   |  4:07 pm GMT  |  60 comments

We had an interesting, if not entirely intentional, debate here on JA on F1 over the weekend about women drivers in F1 and today F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone has given an interview to the official F1 website in which he says that he envisages that Formula 1 could have a female CEO, “probably in three to five years” from now.

He builds up to this by saying that,

“I am sure that not so long from now 50 percent of the decision makers in the economy and politics will be women. Women have always had a strong influence, and have probably been in the background for too long.

“I do (think women have a different approach to making decisions) I think that women don’t get trapped so easily in their own ego. Women don’t have to play golf to make deals, they simply have to work harder to get the same acceptance as men. As their egos don’t stand in their way they decide things less emotionally and in the end that serves the cause.”

Photo: Darren Heath


This is no throwaway tongue in cheek line, as Ecclestone is minded to chuck out there sometimes (and as he does in this interview about making artificial rain during races!!). There is some substance to it. Ecclestone has some very savvy women around him in FOM, in key roles, particularly his lawyer Sacha Woodward-Hill, who is also believed to be a shareholder in the F1 holding company and Allsport executive Judith Griggs. I’ve heard on the jungle drums for the last six months or so that Woodward-Hill is a name that Ecclestone has put forward on occasions as a possible candidate to take over from him as CEO and he may have her in mind when he made today’s comments.

I’ve met her in the F1 paddock, but you’ll struggle to find a picture of her anywhere, she keeps a low profile.

As for timescales, you can take the three to five years reference as you want; Ecclestone is the CEO, there has long been a call for a succession plan and various names have been bandied around. Ecclestone himself is 80 years old and has always said he’ll never retire, but who knows what he is thinking? Anyone who says they know for sure what Bernie thinks is kidding themselves, as anyone close to him will tell you.

Since CVC took 75% of the business, he has done a lot of work securing long term deals on the TV side and on the circuits side as well as increasing the number of official partners like DHL, LG Electronics and UBS.

One other note of interest; Ecclestone says in the same interview that he and FIA president Jean Todt have agreed that if the Bahrain GP is to be rescheduled, they’d like to get the date set before the season starts.

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60 Comments
  1. Olivier says:

    I actually like the idea to clean the race track (every twenty minutes) with “artificial rain”.

  2. I think the main issue here is getting a succession plan in place and any time now works well. I can see a woman doing a perfectly good job possibly better than a man, and I take on board the ego thing.

    I think the main issue here is trying to get some plan or continuity in place in case there is a disaster. The recent mugging event shows just what can happen in life and at 80+ your very vulnerable to this type of event let alone to toll of old age. Get a deputy now! It wasn’t long ago I couldn’t imagine Mclaren without Ron Dennis at the helm and never thought the Martin Whitmarsh was strong enough to step up to the plate. How wrong I was!

    1. Damian J says:

      Coles Corner – Great sound.

  3. DugyC says:

    When you look at the questions introducing and enticing this discussion of women, it’s easy to summarise that Bernie’s last line was a throw away for fun.

    Q: So the phrase ‘money makes the world go around’ is a fact?
    BE: Sex and money make the world go around. That is why I am sure that not so long from now 50 percent of the decision makers in the economy and politics will be women. Women have always had a strong influence, and have probably been in the background for too long. Isn’t there the saying that behind every successful man there is a woman?

    Q: That suggests that you think women have a different approach to making decisions…
    BE: Yes, I do. I think that women don’t get trapped so easily in their own ego. Women don’t have to play golf to make deals, they simply have to work harder to get the same acceptance as men. As their egos don’t stand in their way they decide things less emotionally and in the end that serves the cause.

    Q: That all sounds as if you could imagine women running Formula One racing?
    BE: Absolutely. Probably in three to five years.

    But, who knows eh!?!

    1. DugyC says:

      Actually, re-reading that it’s actually Bernie that introduces the dicussion of women, and leads nicely to his final line.

      :-)

  4. Sebee says:

    Artificial rain?

    Why I too love to chew my gum with a wrapper. The whole show is becoming artificial. Why not just have fans vote their favorite drivers, and have the network a few PS3s together and broadcast that every two weeks. In the very least think of the environmental impact and carbon savings! Schumacher back? Oh no, EVERYONE can be back. Stewart 2012 champion!!!

  5. jonrob says:

    Also from the same interview it is obvious that Bernie for all his intelligence, still just does not get or admit what happened in Bahrain!
    He said that “F1 is not political” casually brushing the murders by Bahraini police and army away as political. But “F1 should support the country” he said. Now that very clearly is political. Also he hinted that the Bahrain GP could be in the summer holidays when it is unbearably hot, and will cause immense problems for the teams, the Crown Prince just had to ask and he and Todt would walk it through the FIA. Apart from that these guys really do need the break, they are shattered by the mid season holiday.

    Come on Bernie wake up and realise what you look like to the world.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am a great admirer of his business acumen, but he has certainly lost touch with his audience, and with some teams too who (apparently) were to boycott the Bahrain GP, had it taken place and may do so in the future, though of course this will land them in court.

    His assertion that there could well be a woman in charge of F1, raises the speculation that he sees himself retiring or being out of commission soon, or maybe tied up in court for an extended period. The last time we heard of Sasha it was as a possible Bernie replacement.

  6. Davexxx says:

    Nov 6th would be an ideal date for Bahrain, far enough away to be planned for and hopefully get over their ‘domestic problems’ and geographically en route for the teams to get to with Abu Dhabi.
    Maybe 20th, but a long haul to Brazil for one week later!

    1. Mike says:

      To be brutally honest if the race never goes back to Borerain I would not shed a tear.

      1. Gemma says:

        i totally agree Mike. As well as being the most boring race and track, Bernie obviuosly dosen’t believe in basic human rights

  7. Mario says:

    I beg to disagree with Bernie. Women decision making is very much influenced by emotions. It is not a bad thing though.

    Women read/sense their emotions on pleasant/unpleasant basis rather than gain/loss like men do.

    The world would be a happier place if it was ruled by women for that very reason.

    1. CNSZU says:

      I totally agree with the first part and totally disagree with your conclusion.

      Men make decisions based on logic (or money, if you will). Women are by nature emotional creatures, and that is how they make decisions. If you don’t suck up to them, they are going to hate you, it’s all personal to them. On top of that, they don’t understand the concept of “reasonable”. They will follow the rule book to the letter, causing long delays and frustration all around. Any company that employs a female boss is doomed to failure.

  8. Mark says:

    Slavica, Tamara or Petra?

    1. mel_drew says:

      One would hope that Ecclestone would have learned, in view of present events in North Africa, that nepotism in autonomous dictatorships is rather frowned on nowadays.

  9. Brian M says:

    And it’s well known women multi-task better…

  10. Stefanos says:

    He may “never” retire, but he can take a chairman role after he appoints a CEO. He’ll still be involved in important decisions, while letting someone else run the day-to-day business. Its quite common.

  11. Declan says:

    From the new Bernie biography ‘No Angel’, it certainly gives the impression that Sacha Woodward-Hill has been integral throughout all the iterations of FOM ownership and negotiations between the circuits and teams. It would certainly make the most sense to promote from within given the opaque nature of how Bernie manages his affairs. In this day and age, it would be doubtful if Woodward-Hill being a woman is an issue whatsoever. That barrier was broken in sporting boardrooms years ago – even in male dominated sports such as football.

    Incidentally, Tom Bower’s book briefly glides over the topic of a successor, with only a brief sentence stating that Donald Mackenzie [CVC] has a short list in place in the event Bernie chooses to leave. It doesn’t expand any further but does state that Ron Dennis is NOT on the list! Subtle and brilliant.

    With the superficial facts, I personally don’t think the successor of a Kingpin ‘deal-maker’ who cobbled the whole empire through savvy negotiations should be a ‘legal’ mind whose expertise is confined to regulatory details and lacks a true vision and innate stubbornness to steer everything in that direction. A good failed corporate example would be Citibank. Instead of picking a ‘mini-me’, Sandy Weill (deal-maker) who repeatedly merged together companies to form Citibank then hand-picked Chuck Prince (lawyer) with the thinking that the ship was built and all that was needed was to strengthen the pieces and to protect his legacy. And of course that bank crumbled when conditions changed and the captain didn’t know which direction to go.

    Politely, the business world is all able squeezing or be squeezed. And Bernie has been both devastatingly brutal and effective in gaining the upper hand to carve his very large piece (amazingly being indispensible from starting with nothing!) . I think the F1 successor will need to be cut from the very same cloth.

    1. Harvey Yates says:

      Declan,

      I think you are spot on when you say that a female replacement for Bernie would hardly be cutting edge.

      I think my experience of lawyers and yours varies to a considerable extent. My view is that all they do is make deals. And innate stubbornness, in the face of overwhelming regulatory details to the contrary, is one of their defining characteristics.

      My main point of disagreement – no offence meant of course, just giving my observations – is whether we should have a Bernie clone. His skills were wheeler dealing and I think the requirement has now changed CEO-wise. Conditions are different and there is nothing Bernie can do about it. There are clouds on the horizon.

      I’d love to know Bernie’s relationship with Todt. Mind you, I bet Bernie would as well.

  12. Harvey Yates says:

    James,

    Surely it is more to do with the concord agreement and court cases as to who will decide who follows Bernie.

    We have Williams being floated, Patrick Head shedding shares, Brawn selling up: what’s causing the exodus? Is it concern as to the course of F1?

    There seems to be a lack of rumour about the negotiations – unless you can say otherwise, James? Please let us know what’s happening.

    Good old Bernie though. Even when he’s praising women he can’t help but be sexist.

    And why statement about the time constraints on the rescheduling of the Bahrain GP? Is this to show he and Todt speak with one voice or that the race will be cancelled? Or both?

    1. Robert McKay says:

      “We have Williams being floated, Patrick Head shedding shares, Brawn selling up: what’s causing the exodus? Is it concern as to the course of F1?”

      That’s mostly individuals who’ve been in the sport a while looking to their exit strategy in the near future. Not much of an exodus to me.

  13. Kieran says:

    James, you’re a brave man re-visiting gender at the moment! Maybe Bernie had his eye on your website over the weekend. It got pretty heated.

    I would like the best person to take over, rather than deciding on gender. A team of men and women are the best mix, so possibly some sort of ruling council rather than Bernie’s dictatorial style? A CEO, CFO, VP and President like any other boardroom.

    That would definitely put play to any worries about ‘succession via mugging’

    Ps – I’ve been blocked again, I’ve had to use a different address for this post. What did I do?

    1. James Allen says:

      Nothing. We’re doing an update soon which should mean we don’t get these issues any more

      1. jonrob says:

        Does that mean I can use my original name again? (which was blocked on three occasions and still is. But ok on other wordpress blogs)

      2. James Allen says:

        We have to have tight spam filters as the site is of a size to attract 1,000s of spam messages, many from Russia for some reason. As I said it should be better when we carry out an update in the near future. Thanks for your patience

      3. Sergey Matvienko says:

        James, i think spam filter should at least notify people why they can’t post. I tried to post a comment several times last year, and used .ru email adress. After sending comment there was absolutely no message.
        Only after reading your comment about this issue i understood what was wrong and changed email address.

      4. Tim. says:

        Start blocking their IP’s

  14. Thomas in Australia says:

    My gosh Bernie, didn’t we establish a few decades ago that women are equally competent business leaders….

  15. Damian J says:

    Has n’t F1 been mugged by Bernie?

    Every time Bernie comes out and says anything, he contradicts it with a u turn of gymnastic proportions and in a matter of weeks so I treat everything he says with a pinch of salt!

  16. Werewolf says:

    The best way to generate discussion is to drop a line or two to the media. Then read the situation, decide whether you need to go with the flow or have the resources, if necessary, to swim against it. Did somebody say something about women F1 drivers recently?

    As for politics and Bahrain, let’s be quite clear. The truth, unpalatable though it may be, is the politics of this situation are about money, commercial positioning and, moreover, legal and financial culpability – which is not necessarily the same thing as responsibility. I’m afraid the fate of the protesters, police or anybody else is the human interest story, far less important politically; and it is for individuals to decide what matters most to them. And whether they will take a stance (find something else to watch) or stay onboard for the ride.

    I’ve always been a proponent of keeping sport and politics apart but I acknowledge this is increasingly difficult in a commercial age where so many of the strings are pulled by the same people.

    That said, I was appalled by the (perceived) commercial politics that probably led to Hill’s Williams starting at Imola in ’94; yet I don’t remember batting an eyelid when F1 raced at Kyalami and East London throughout much of apartheid, despite being part of a couple of ‘political’ anti-apartheid protests even helping train a black South African in industrial relations! Ugh!!

    Anyway, as the dividing line no longer divides, it will be interesting to note Ferrari’s position in all this. With De Montezemolo’s current political prominence in Italy and the increasing fragility of the Berlusconi government, I suspect there will be much more game-playing before this one’s over.

    1. unoc vII says:

      Bernie is rather shrewd and no idiot, sure some (cross that, most) of his ideas to ‘spice up the racing’ are horrible and never should be done, whether it be shortcuts, medals or fake rain (hasn’t china already done that?)

      But yoiur first paragraph is what I tend to think whenever Bernie opens his mouth. He doesn’t speka to the media about his feelings or thoughts, he lets out what he wants you to hear and then judges.

  17. Gord says:

    I do think that rain makes a race more interesting, but I think what Bernie misses is the fact that it is the unpredictibility of rain that makes the rain races entertaining. If everyone knew that the sprinklers were being turned on, they would all just pit for tires, removing the unpredictibility.

    1. James Allen says:

      I don’t think the rain line is terribly serious. But your point is correct

    2. jonrob says:

      What they really need is a tin of “Whoops!” This was a silicone powder which was sprinkled around the paddock at Brands on days when the Skid training was on, the paddock was first hosed over. This produced an excellent surface for practising skid control. This was of course before the “astatic” car frame was invented. The Brian Jones Organistation ran the courses, great fun and should be a compulsory part of the driving test.

    3. giorgio0078 says:

      Maybe they are going to operate it with some random software, key to which nobody knows, heh, heh ..

  18. David Turnedge says:

    In this enlightened age I wonder how anything to do with gender is an issue apart from procreation.

    I know countless men I’d never trust running a business or being fit enough to drive a race car. And the same regards women.

    Enough gender stereotyping… please.

    Are some still (seriously) shocked to hear a woman can drive a race car ‘like a man’ or run an International business empire?

  19. Vinoo says:

    neither Bernie nor James have the b***s to admit the fact that F1 is still a elitist sport…..if we really want to find the best “drivers” or “racers” in the world…lets integrate the racing system.. cause this really a first world farce..Globalization!!!

    1. James Allen says:

      You obviously missed my Christmas series in 2009 about the future, part of which was about ways of making the sport less elitist..

  20. KerbRider says:

    tells me he has made a decision for one of his daughters to take over maybe. reading between the lines. Go Bernie!!

  21. Ruldo says:

    Bernie is a fine example of someone who has expired, and serves no useful purpose.

    Everthing has a best before and/or expiry date.

    [mod]

    Hope F1 is replaced with a true racing series ASAP – I’m pretty sure 99% of the F1 racings fans will switch to a fairly run spectacle in a heart beat.

    F1 is dying a long death… its so boring to watch it fall apart…

    1. James Allen says:

      Perhaps you should find a new sport to follow and post messages on their websites. This one is for people who are passionate or at least interested in the sport and all its various characters and depths

      1. Andy C says:

        Absolutely agree.

        Bernie is a fine example of a man who has undoubtably made a lot of money, and likes to give his opinion, but he is also a big part of why F1 today is so successful as a sport and a business.

        I’m not sure what the definition is of a true racing series?

      2. Paul Barrass says:

        lol, agreed. Personally the last four seasons (which have given us a remarkable 4 new champions from 4 different teams) have averaged out to be some of the best seasons for me, partly because of sites like this one where the intrigue of the sport is becoming more apparent to outsiders more than it has in the past.

        I’m loving Schumakers return to the sport he took so much from and think the new Schumaker is fantastic for interviewing and his comments, and I’ve got to be honest, I’m loving the BBC coverage, bar some outrageous blunders during the in-race commentary. (If you can get BBC coverage of the F1 Forum where you are, please try to do so…)

        Having said all that, I still agree with the original poster that F1 is dying in terms of the racing on offer, but thankfully I get to see the Aussie V8s, Nascar and all kinds of four wheeled goodness on the telly, so I get my fix of wheel to wheel racing elsewhere, which in a way is kind of sad :-(

      3. Tim. says:

        He does he watches NASCAR

      4. Ruldo says:

        I can fully understand why an F1 journalist would want to put a positive spin on F1, but frankly, the long standing fans have very little reason to watch F1, as the core of the show is missing the fundamentals of geniune racing.

        I sincerely wish there was an alternative to F1 – indy cars would be ideal, but the ovals are almost as boring as a typical F1 procession.

        Hopefully a new series is born, that re-introduces geniune racing, with cars that are both cutting edge, drivable and allow claasic slip-streaming for driver based overtaking – certainly not wing based overtaking.

        F1 is overtun with money, and it appears extremely contived and devoid of racing entertainment.

        It may appear odd that I’m posting on a F1 website, but I do believe I represent a hugh section of the more passive F1 crowd – its high time, things were said that are simply fact. Enough is enough – sometimes the first step to fixing a problem is admitting the problem.

        Bernie’s dictatorship theory work to a point, but then the wall start crumbling in, as the rot sets in…

      5. James Allen says:

        OK, so give us your five point plan for what the long standing disaffected fans would want to see

  22. zombie says:

    Setting up his daughter to take over the helm after his reign as i see.

    As for women, less than 2% of Fortune 500 companies have women CEOs, and many of them have inherited the business.Maybe there’s a reason, maybe there isn’t ..I don’t care who leads F1 as long as it remains a sport.

    1. Andy C says:

      The lack of women in high boardroom positions is more to do with attitudes than lack of capabilities I’m afraid.

      I’ve worked in many top companies in US and UK, and I can tell you some of the best senior people I’ve worked with are women.

      On your comment “many of them have inherited the business”, not sure that’s backed up by facts.

      FT.com ran an article some time back about top 50 female execs, I didnt see many inheritance execs on that list.

      1. zombie says:

        Well, we’ve had different experiences then. The women that i’ve worked with/under have mostly been ego-trapped,self-aggrandizing ones.

        If you think the glass-ceilings in boardrooms stop women from running companies ( as stated above, less than 3% of Fortune500 companies have women CEOs),then lets take a case of billionaire business-persons.

        10 out of 10 ‘top 10′ female billionaires have inherited wealth and have not created it.Where as only 1 among ‘top 10′ billionaire men (Ambani) has inherited wealth,the rest are self-made.

        As i’ve said, be it female drivers or business women, if they are truly capable then i have no qualms with them getting an opportunity. But what i’m against is someone getting a chance ONLY because her being a women. Point in case being Danica Patrick.

      2. Andy c says:

        We kind of agree then. If there on merit brilliant, if there because its a marketing or Demographics :-)

        Same applies to uk politics and women only mp selection lists.

      3. Chris says:

        Zombie.

        Your point is fallacious and you are not paying attention to the reality of the business climate.

        Business is a traditionally male-dominated environment (which I have worked in for many years and dealt with many managers in top companies).

        The fact that women are underrepresented in your ‘top 10 self-made’ list is PRECISELY due to the difficulties in achieving such a status within the male-dominated business environment.

        Would you draw similar conclusions of performance from a group of advantaged people with those that were handicapped in the same environment?

  23. James Draper says:

    Nothing like a woman in charge eh Bernie!

  24. Arnie S says:

    I think his idea is stupid, for the following reasons:
    1) The next CEO should be the best available
    2) The next CEO should now what he/she is doing
    3) I don’t care if it is a “he”, “she” or even a “it”, as long as #1 and 2 are fulfilled

  25. ACB says:

    Whether Bernie’s replacement is a man or woman is irrelevant.

  26. Andy H says:

    Bernie’s done good for the sport in some ways, but those who say it would not be where it is if it wasnt for Bernie is rubbish.
    The sport is full of very clever people and does anyone think that the boat would have been missed? NO. F1 could be a very different sport and more than likely better if it wasnt for that man.
    Does anyone think the teams would not have got together with FIA and run the sport properly. Maybe they would have fell out with Max Moseley and done what they nearly did a while back. Would F1 have allowed one man to become so wealthy on its back?
    Think about it folks, is F1 where it is today inspite of Bernie or thanks to Bernie?

    1. Andy H says:

      The question is not who replaces Bernie, but how to get rid of CVC. How much better will the sport be without the leeches huge debts to pay the man who sold it to them.
      The teams will certainly happier.

  27. wchrisg says:

    As long as the new CEO says crazy things to the press Every 3 Days.

  28. Kevin says:

    No-one cares whether the CEO is male or female, as long as they are sane, unlike the current CEO. Fake rain? I always thought he looked like a mad person, but this is all the proof we need [mod] and despite his origins in the distant past as a participant in the sport, someone who is now so remote from the reality of racing that he’s like some Bourbon king presiding over his dominion and ruling by edict. What next? Letting wild animals loose on the track to spice things up? Someone should institutionalise this liability that been screwing up Formula One for years and years.

  29. Derek says:

    Ah yes! Judith Griggs, I would love to see her get the role.

    Great lawyer but not a deal maker! re: role at AGPC

  30. Derek says:

    Dear Kevin,

    Bernie is not mad, just miss understood! Did you know he spends a lot of money on cryogenics research? Why you ask? you work it out!

    D

  31. Colin Thomson says:

    I think Karren Brady would make a good CEO, she has already taken on all the big ego’s in the male dominated world of football and won, is tough as you can get and has earned the respect of the men in a macho sport, she could do the same in F1

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