Australian Grand Prix CEO Ron Walker Says 'When Bernie Retires, Then I Will Retire'
Australian Grand Prix CEO Ron Walker "has revealed that he will step down" when F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone gives up F1's driving seat, "and has warned that this could trigger an exodus of top race managers," according to Christian Sylt of AUTO WEEK. Walker, who is also chairman of the Formula One Promoters Association, said, "There will be a number of promoters who will retire when Bernie retires, but I firmly believe the races will stay with the countries. Promoters have a very special relationship with Bernie. He is more of a friend than a business colleague, and they are reaching the same age group. When Bernie retires, then I will retire as well; and a number of other long-standing promoters that have been friends of Bernie's will do also." Walker is a prominent Australian businessman "who was Lord Mayor of Melbourne and chairman of the organizing body for the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne." He added, "When Bernie goes, Formula One will change. You won't recognize the sport after Bernie goes because he has done it in his own way as unique as he can. It will be the end of an era. A lot of people say Bernie is the greatest sports promoter in history, and he has formed close personal relationships with promoters over the years." Ecclestone "faces threats of prosecution in Germany over paying the alleged bribe, and last month BayernLB wrote to him demanding $350M in damages because it believes its F1 shares were undervalued. It follows "the conviction in June of former BayernLB Manager Gerhard Gribkowsky" who was "found guilty of receiving the alleged bribe from Ecclestone in return for agreeing to sell the bank's stake in F1 to CVC." Private equity firm CVC, F1's current owner, "has stood by Ecclestone, but it is understood that it would be forced to replace him if he is prosecuted" (AUTO WEEK, 11/27).