Formula One CEO Bernie Ecclestone Faces German Bribery Trial
F1 CEO BERNIE ECCLESTONE "goes on trial for bribery in Germany this week in a case that threatens to end the Briton's long reign as the commercial boss of the motor sport," according to Keith Weir of REUTERS. Prosecutors in Munich have charged Ecclestone, 83, with bribing jailed former German banker GERHARD GRIBKOWSKY "to smooth the sale eight years ago of a stake in Formula One to private equity firm CVC." CVC remains the largest shareholder in F1, a business that generates annual revenues of over $1.5B from its series of grand prix races held around the world. CVC co-Chair DONALD MACKENZIE has said that "he would fire Ecclestone if he was found guilty of wrongdoing." Ecclestone denies wrongdoing and says that "he will fight to clear his name." He "could face up to 10 years in jail if convicted" (REUTERS, 4/20). In London, Christian Sylt wrote the 256-page indictment "paints a picture of an autocrat who was so concerned about losing power" that he paid part of a $44M bribe to Gribkowsky to keep his job. Ecclestone argues that he paid Gribkowsky $10M "to stop him making false claims about his tax affairs," rather than to "favor CVC as a bidder." But prosecutors claim that "Ecclestone had good reason to bribe the banker." The indictment against Ecclestone said, "From the very beginning, the interests held by the majority shareholders in Formula One, ie BayernLB and the other Formula One banks JP Morgan and Lehman, constituted a disturbing factor for the accused." Ecclestone said that "legal advice prevents him from commenting on the latest case" (GUARDIAN, 4/21).