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Volume 10 No. 22
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F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone Talks F1 Finances; German Court Delays Decision On Bribery Trial

F1 CEO BERNIE ECCLESTONE "spoke recently in the motor home that he uses as a headquarters at Grands Prix races" with John F. Burns of the N.Y. TIMES and Brad Spurgeon of the Int'l HERALD TRIBUNE.

Q: There has been quite a lot of nervousness about the state of some of the F1 teams, and whether they are financially viable.
Bernie Ecclestone: How long have I been, really, in Formula One running the teams? 1970? Myself, when I had money invested -- nothing’s changed -- FRANK WILLIAMS [owner of the Williams team] used to come and borrow money from me to pay for his engine bills. Nothing’s changed. You go back to the Brabham days, when I really got involved in things. Dear old Frank used to come and borrow money, and he paid it back right on the dot. That’s how it was. There have been very rich teams, and teams that are struggling. Nothing’s changed. Just the amounts have gone up. The principles have all been the same. Formula One team owners always spend more than they’ve got. And they have to find the money.

Q: The critics say there are not enough teams, that half of the teams are in a very parlous financial state. And then there are more complicated questions about CVC (the venture capital company that owns a controlling stake in F1) and the division of revenues between CVC and the teams.
Ecclestone: Of which they get 62 percent. The difference is, we control what we spend, and they can’t. Because if you look at it, very few of them are business people. If you look at their history and what they’ve done, it’s pretty clear. They spend too much, it’s as simple as that. All of the teams in Formula One, including the ones at the back of the grid, could and should be making a very good profit. I can’t help them. If you give all of them 25 percent more next year, you’d be sitting here with me at the end of next year with the same stories.

Q: Does it worry you that people look at you and see you as being the tsar, the single dominant figure who controls the finances, who heavily influences every aspect of the sport? There can’t be too many people who have ever held a position in a sport such as you have now.
Ecclestone: I don’t know. I’m sure there has been. I’ve never thought about it like that. I’m doing a job, and I do the best job I can do. If you tried to run this whole business democratically, it wouldn’t work. Half of the people don’t agree with each other anyway. To get something done it would take two months where we need an answer in two days (N.Y. TIMES, 9/20).

BRIBERY CASE: REUTERS' Sheahan & Weir reported a German court said that a decision on whether Ecclestone "will stand trial on bribery charges is likely to be delayed until next year." The court in Munich said in a statement that "Ecclestone's lawyers plan to submit more statements related to the case and an imminent staffing change at the court will add to delays." SVEN THOMAS, a lawyer in Germany for the British billionaire, said that "he welcomed the extra time being taken by the court to reach its decision." He said that "his firm handed about 250 pages of documents to the court three weeks ago." Thomas: "There's a bit more coming, but not as much as that" (REUTERS, 9/20).