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Volume 10 No. 22
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Bernie Ecclestone Steps Down From Board Of The Holding Company Controlling F1

F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone "has stepped down from the board of F1, but will continue to run the sport on a day-to-day basis 'subject to increased monitoring,'" following confirmation he is to face trial in Germany later this year, according to Gill & Wise of SKY SPORTS. Ecclestone "will stand trial on bribery charges in a court case that is expected to commence in late April." Ecclestone was "indicted by Munich's state court on charges of bribery and incitement to breach of trust." A statement released by holding company Delta Topco Ltd. said, "After discussion with the Board, Mr Ecclestone has proposed and the Board has agreed that until the case has been concluded, he will step down as a director with immediate effect, thereby relinquishing his board duties and responsibilities until the case has been resolved" (SKY SPORTS, 1/16).

LOSING POWER: In London, Eason & Charter reported Ecclestone "has been stripped of ultimate power" over F1. This "is the crucial moment in the history of F1: Ecclestone’s rule over the sport has been total until now." The criminal trial "brings to a head the legal woes that threaten to end Ecclestone’s near-40 year tenure as ruler of F1." However, he then "faces two more actions" -- one in Germany and another in the U.S. -- that amount to claims for more than $1B. The papers from the Constantin action in London’s High Court "have been passed to prosecutors in Germany and will be studied by lawyers working on the two new civil claims" (LONDON TIMES, 1/16). The BBC's Andrew Benson opined, "The decision means that, to some degree, nothing changes for now. In reality, though, Ecclestone's impending trial on bribery charges has the potential to be a game-changer on a massive scale." Benson added, "If he is found guilty of paying a bribe -- and the German courts have already convicted former banker Gerhard Gribkowsky of taking it -- Ecclestone cannot possibly continue in his job" (BBC, 1/16).

ECCLESTONE'S LEGACY: REUTERS' Keith Weir wrote Ecclestone's eye for a deal "has made him a fortune" and turned F1 "into a global money-spinner." Despite his age, the former car salesman "remains central to the commercial operations of a sport followed by millions of fans around the world and that considered a flotation on the stock market" in Singapore in '12. Ecclestone "has long dismissed talk of retirement but has acknowledged that a conviction in Germany would force him out, saying with typical bluntness that he couldn't run the business from jail" (REUTERS, 1/16).

ON TRIAL: REUTERS' Poltz & Weir reported Ecclestone has been "ordered to stand trial on bribery charges in Munich." Ecclestone was charged last July with bribing Gribkowsky to "smooth the sale of a stake in Formula One to private equity firm CVC eight years ago." The Munich court said in a statement Thursday, "Under current planning, the main trial should start in late April." If convicted, Ecclestone "could be sentenced to up to 10 years in jail." Ecclestone has repeatedly said that the payment "had nothing to do with the CVC deal and that he was the victim of coercion by Gribkowksy who was threatening to make false claims about his tax status" (REUTERS, 1/16).

NEW TEAMS: GRAND PRIX 247 reported Ecclestone claims F1 authorities "are in talks with two potential new teams" for the '15 season. The FIA "recently invited new entrants to bid for the vacant spot on the grid, but until now there has been no sign of any serious interest." Ecclestone told the Wirtschaftswoche publication, "We are in talks with two new names. Neither is an automaker" (GRAND PRIX 247, 1/16).