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There "could be a preliminary decision in the trial against F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone on May 9," according to Frank Schneider of BILD. It "will be the day when the prosecution's key witness, convicted former banker Gerhard Gribkowsky, takes the stand at the Munich courthouse." Gribkowsky was sentenced to eight-and-a-half years for tax evasion and bribery in connection to the sale of F1 to private equity firm CVC in '05. Ecclestone and his lawyer Sven Thomas will do "everything to discredit Gribkowsky's statements." Ecclestone said, "We have evidence and we will present it." However, not before Gribkowsky's testimony "in order to convict the key witness of lying." Ecclestone said, "Gribkowsky wanted to leave the bank. He wanted to become my business partner. But I refused." Should the court convict Ecclestone of bribery "he could face up to 10 years in prison" (BILD, 4/27).
German investment group HFK is considering buying Polish football club Korona Kielce, according to Jaroslaw Adamowski of INSIDE WORLD FOOTBALL. The club is owned by the "city of Kielce whose authorities are currently negotiating the potential sale." Kielce Mayor Wojciech Lubawski said, "I have informed our partners on the troubled situation of the club in a detailed manner. They approached the issue with understanding, and they didn't drop the talks." Speaking of the "club's troubles," Lubawski made a reference to the "recent dismissal" of Korona CEO Tomasz Chojnowski, who was ousted "amid accusations of mismanagement and embezzlement of funds at the club." The city "currently holds a 100% stake in Korona." From '02-08, the club was owned by local businessman and current sponsor Krzysztof Klicki (INSIDE WORLD FOOTBALL, 4/25).
Liverpool Managing Dir Ian Ayre said that because of team Owner Fenway Sports Group, the club has "recovered from being 'seconds from financial disaster' to re-establish themselves at the top of English football," according to Chris Bascombe of the London TELEGRAPH. FSG's takeover in '10, which came after former Owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr. were forced to sell their shares, "avoided administration and has been the catalyst for the restoration of Liverpool as a club of substance rather than image." Ayre said, "People sometimes forget how bad it was. I speak to people now and they have really short memories. When you think about that day when we tipped it over the edge and finally pulled it back, we have come such a long way. It is no secret." He added, "It was horrific to see the football club in that state. I do not think there was a Liverpool fan in the city or anywhere who was not worried we would not get back to this position. We went from the court ruling to two years of scrapping via lawyers." Ayre: "As one of the few people who was here with the last ownership and through this one, I can say the club is in a fantastically sustainable position now and that’s down to the people running it in the best interests of the club, not the best interest of the owners. ... It’s an unbelievable achievement to get back where we are today. That is testament to the people who invested in it and worked on getting us back there." Bascombe notes this week’s unveiling of designs for a new Anfield and announcement of the latest commercial partnership with Subway "was further proof that, unlike previous title challenges in the last 24 years, this one has stronger foundations" (TELEGRAPH, 4/25).
Wimbledon "has almost doubled prices for a guaranteed seat on Centre Court" to raise £100M ($168M) "to pay off a loan on the roof over its main stadium and refurbish the site in southwest London," according to Danielle Rossingh of BLOOMBERG. The All England Lawn Tennis Ground, which owns the grounds of the world’s only grass-court tennis major, said that it "will issue 2,500 Centre Court debenture tickets" at a price of £50,000 ($84,020) each for '16-20. That is 80% more than in the previous sale, when the debentures -- which gives the right to a reserved seat on Centre Court for every day of the tournament in the five-year period, as well as car parking and access to the debenture holders’ restaurants and bars -- were priced at £27,750 for '11-15, and the club raised £60M. The money "will be used to pay off" a £35M ($58.8M) balance on a loan taken out "to fund the construction of a retractable roof over Centre Court." It "will also invest in improvements on its site at London’s Church Road, where it has been located since 1922." Centre Court debentures, which are sold every five years, "were first marketed by the All England Club in 1920 to pay for the construction of what’s become the world’s most famous tennis court" (BLOOMBERG, 4/25). ESPN's Darren Rovell reported the increase is "partly due to the club's desire" to repay a loan. But it is also because such a raise "is reasonable given what happened last year." Some tickets to the men's final, where Andy Murray became the first man from the U.K. to win the tournament in 77 years, sold for more than $20,000 each. Spread out over five years, each Centre Court ticket from '16-20 will cost approximately $1,300 per tournament day. With each debenture "comes a free pass for another person to enter the Wimbledon grounds and the right for the seat holder to dine in a private Centre Court restaurant and use its bar and lounge facilities" (ESPN, 4/25).