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SBD Global/November 22, 2012/Finance

American Private Equity Firm Suing Bernie Ecclestone For $650M

Pressure "continues to build" on F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone with an American private equity firm the latest company to instigate legal action off the back of ongoing bribery allegations in Germany, according to Tom Cary of the London TELEGRAPH. Bluewaters Communications Holdings has filed a $650M lawsuit at the Supreme Court of N.Y. State, "arguing that it lost that amount after Ecclestone paid a $44M bribe to German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky in '06 to ensure that BayernLB’s stake in F1 was sold to present owners CVC Capital Partners." Bluewaters said it should have been sold the stake as it had offered "10% above any genuine bona fide offer put forward by any other competing buyer." The action is against Ecclestone, CVC Capital Partners, Ecclestone-run companies Alpha Prema, Alpha Topco and Delta Topco, Gribkowsky, and Bayerische Landesbank (TELEGRAPH, 11/20). BLOOMBERG's Linda Sandler noted F1 racing "was valued at $10B" by Bluewaters in the lawsuit. Bluewaters' current valuation "may aid investors trying to sell F1 stakes." CVC has said that "it was seeking to take F1 public in Singapore." Financial services firm Lehman Brothers Holdings, which is liquidating assets to pay creditors, holds a stake of about 15%. Bluewaters said it was "encouraged" by JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Lehman to buy their shares in a vehicle that controlled F1 around Dec. '04, when Ecclestone lost legal control to them and BayernLB. Although a Bluewaters representative assembled $1B in financing for the purchase, and made offers to the three lenders, "the stake went to CVC as a result of Ecclestone’s efforts, according to the complaint." Ecclestone is traveling and "could not immediately be reached for comment on the lawsuit." Lehman officials declined to comment, and JPMorgan spokesperson Joseph Evangelisti "did not immediately respond to an e-mailed request for comment" (BLOOMBERG, 11/19).
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