Ecclestone Dismisses Accusations By German Banker In London's High Court
F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone "laughed off suggestions" that he "frightened a German banker into fleeing to the police to protect himself," according to Kevin Eason of the LONDON TIMES. The High Court in London was told that banker Gerhard Gribkowsky "went to the police in Munich claiming that he was being intimidated" by Ecclestone. Ecclestone joked that Gribkowsky "had even asked for a licence to carry a gun." It was a "light-hearted aside" in a second day of questioning of F1’s CEO over the sale of the F1 business in '06 to CVC Capital Partners. Ecclestone and three others "are facing a claim" for $140M in damages from Constantin Medien. The hearing centered around Ecclestone’s "determination to cling on to control and to prevent the banks from moving into the F1 business." Ecclestone said he “didn’t care” who was on the board or who the members were, but added, “I don’t work alongside anyone. I do the job exactly the way I like to do it. If the banks had tried to run the business, there would have been no business. That is not an arrogant position, that is a fact” (LONDON TIMES, 11/7).
FEELING THREATENED: In London, Tom Cary reported it emerged in court that Gribkowsky at one stage "felt so threatened" by Ecclestone that he "went to the police to register his concerns." Referring to a witness statement given to Munich police in Dec. '04, Philip Marshall QC, representing Constantin Medien, suggested to Ecclestone that Gribkowsky appeared to be "concerned by a physical threat from you" at the time (TELEGRAPH, 11/7). REUTERS' Keith Weir reported Ecclestone said that he "did not think" that Gribkowsky "had wanted to remove him from his role prior to the sale." Ecclestone said, "He gets rid of me and the company is worth nothing" (REUTERS, 11/7).
THE MAN, THE MYTH: The BBC's Andrew Benson reported with Ecclestone, the "myth is so much wrapped up in the man that it is often hard to separate fact from fiction." This son of a Suffolk trawlerman "has ruled Formula 1 for nearly 40 years with a combination of astuteness, cunning, sharp practice and sheer intellectual power arguably unmatched across business and sporting worlds." He "has turned what was essentially a minority activity for enthusiasts into the most-watched global sport outside the Olympics and football's World Cup." His appearance in the High Court this week "is one of a series of legal problems that present him with his biggest challenge yet." Can he "survive accusations he made corrupt payments to a German banker to facilitate the sale of F1?" In the normal business world, the answer would be "no." Any CEO who has referred to women as "domestic appliances" or praised Adolf Hitler for being "able to get things done" would have been "shown the door with a haste to match the indecency of the remarks." Not Ecclestone, who "survived those particular storms -- and many more." He has done it "because of his remarkable achievements, his all-pervading influence in F1 and, since the sport began trading as a commodity, his success in making money for his bosses." That last attribute "may yet keep him in a job, as long as he can survive the current case in London and the subsequent, arguably more serious, criminal bribery case in Munich" (BBC, 11/6).