Belfast Telegraph

Motormouth prone to going off piste

For more than two decades Jeremy Clarkson's unapologetically boisterous and outspoken personality has dominated Britain's television screens.

But his long career on the BBC has ended in ignominy amid revelations he launched into a vicious and unprovoked attack on a producer over a row about his dinner.

Few presenters have won so many fans, or stoked so much controversy as Clarkson.

His suspension prompted international rap star Snoop Dogg to demand a boycott of the BBC, while the Prime Minister's daughter threatened a hunger strike.

For many, Clarkson was a welcome antidote to an era of political correctness. And it is hard to think of a group that has not fallen foul of Clarkson's sharp tongue and witty put-downs.

His paymasters at the BBC came in for repeated criticisms, and commenting on public sector workers he said he would "have them all shot".

When Labour transport spokesman Michael Dugher dared to say he does not do Top Gear, Clarkson retorted "We don't make it for people who wear pink ties".

Love him or loathe him, no one can doubt Clarkson's success as a presenter.

He steered through the show's 2002 relaunch, transforming the nerdy straight-laced programme into a turbo-charged international success.

His blokeish banter with fellow hosts James May and Richard Hammond and adrenaline-fuelled stunts made Top Gear the BBC's most bankable exports.

The show and its spin-off merchandise were valued at a reported £100 million when Clarkson sold his 50% stake in it in 2012.

Born in Doncaster to a travelling salesman and a teacher, his parents created a successful business making Paddington Bears which paid for Clarkson's private education at Repton School.

But he was a far from ideal pupil and says he was "asked to leave" for inappropriate behaviour including drinking, smoking and seducing girls.

Departing from school with less than impressive A-levels, he started work as a trainee reporter on the Rotherham Advertiser.

He had described his early newspaper job as "a never-ending stream of trouble" which included being thrown out of an inquest for laughing and left after a few years to set up a small press agency specialising in motoring news.

That led him to what was then the rather staid motoring show which he transformed by pulling in legions of viewers with his a brash, opinionated style.

He married his agent-turned-manager Francie, who he had three children with. But after 21 years of marriage and many rumours of infidelity, the couple separated last year.

He is part of the famous Chipping Norton set and counts Prime Minister David Cameron and former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks among his friends.

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