Ecclestone formally charged for Bribery

Running Formula One isn’t easy. Sometimes things you do can and will catch up with you. Like paying a German banker to hush about any of your investments and then later being accused of bribery. That’s exactly what’s happened to Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone but many believe it wasn’t “go away” money, it was flat out bribe cash to undervalue the stock price of F1 to hasten the sale to CVC Capital.

CVC have been mum on the issue since it surfaced last year but German authorities have formally charged Ecclestone just two weeks after his presence at the German Grand Prix. According to German authorities, Ecclestone bribed Gerhard Gribkowsky to undervalue the stock of F1, then owned by Bayern Landesbank, and paid him $44m for doing so. The transaction was back in 2006 and totaled 47% of the F1 shares. Ecclestone maintains Gribkowsky was blackmailing him and threatened to tell UK authorities about his financial trust and stir up tax implications that would have cost him a fortune to prove his innocence.

It is an interesting case which Ecclestone’s attorneys say is mainly based on the testimony of Gribkowsky during his trial and conviction in 2012. There is also another investment group, Bluewater investments, that are attempting to sue Ecclestone as they say they were the highest bidder when all of this went down back in 2006.

It is a challenging situation as BayernLB are on record of publicly stating they thought the price was right and were happy with the sale. It now seems that German authorities feel differently.  Gribkowsky has certainly stated it was bribe money for his role, while employed at BayernLB, in undervaluing the stock.

Ecclestone has survived other financial and litigious situations in his life and while this could be a major battle, it also wouldn’t surprise anyone if it were a financial penalty due upon conviction. Ecclestone has serious legal firepower and it remains to be seen what his defense will be but one can be assured it will be comprehensive. Ecclestone told the FT via BBC:

 “I have just spoken to my lawyers and they have received an indictment. It’s being translated into English.”

“We are defending it properly. It will be an interesting case. It’s a pity it’s happened.”

At 82-years-old, Ecclestone could face jail time and that would be a major blow to Formula One as well as usher in a new era of leadership but no one has the immediate answer to who a likely successor would be as Ecclestone is certainly a singular man in the world of motor sport.

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