Bernie Ecclestone Tells London High Court Banker Payment Was 'Insurance Policy'
F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone "has scored an early victory" in a legal battle about the value of F1 as the claim against him as been reduced by $30M to $140.4M, according to Christian Sylt of the London INDEPENDENT. The F1 boss took the stand Wednesday to "answer charges that a stake in the sport was undervalued" when it was sold by German bank BayernLB (BLB) to private equity firm CVC in '06 (INDEPENDENT, 11/6). REUTERS' Keith Weir reported Ecclestone said a multi-million dollar payment to a jailed German banker was an "insurance policy." Ecclestone denied "it was linked to the sale of a stake in the business to private equity firm CVC." Ecclestone said that he paid German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky £10M ($16M), but said that was because Gribkowsky "was threatening to make damaging claims about a family trust to the British tax authorities" that could have cost him up to £2B ($3.2B). Ecclestone: "What I paid him was a very small amount, what I call an insurance policy." Ecclestone called it "quite a cheap insurance policy." He said that "there was no link" to a deal in which CVC paid BayernLB $830M for a 47% stake in F1. Ecclestone: "This issue was nothing to do with anyone except Gribkowsky and myself, nobody else" (REUTERS, 11/6).
SHAKE DOWN: BLOOMBERG's Kit Chellel reported Ecclestone "was asked whether he denied making the payments to newspapers" and the F1 board in '11 after Gribkowsky was arrested on suspicion of receiving bribes. Ecclestone: "I was being shaken down." Philip Marshall, a lawyer for Constantin said Ecclestone had told a newspaper in '11 the bribery allegations were "absolute nonsense." Ecclestone "admitted making payments and denied being dishonest when asked about it afterward." Ecclestone said, "I was more concerned with this whole matter being kept out of the public," because of Gribkowsky’s threats to tell British tax authorities about a family trust. He said he told the truth to journalists, F1 execs and investigators from CVC (BLOOMBERG, 11/6). The London TELEGRAPH reported giving evidence in the damages case brought by Constantin Medien, Ecclestone "repeated previous statements that he was being put under pressure by Gribkowsky who he feared would make false claims about his tax affairs." He "denied misleading" F1 board members including ad group WPP CEO Martin Sorrell and Nestle Chair Peter Brabeck about payments to Gribkowsky. Ecclestone: "It wasn't the slightest concern of theirs" (TELEGRAPH, 11/6). Also in London, Kevin Eason wrote "it would be an ordeal for anyone to answer such detailed and intensive questioning, but Ecclestone was 83 last month and occasionally seemed his age." Before the hearing, Ecclestone’s lawyers told the court that "their client suffered fading eyesight and was hard of hearing." Ecclestone "had to take his spectacles off to read the long list of documents presented to him and many of his murmured answers were inaudible in the far reaches" off the packed courtroom (LONDON TIMES, 11/7).