Ecclestone leaves Board of Formula 1

Stepping down from the board of Delta Topco—the group that runs Formula 1—Bernie Ecclestone will now focus on two things. The first will be running the day-to-day operation of F1 and the second will be the pending trial for bribery in Germany.

It was announced Thursday that the trial would, indeed, go ahead and subsequently, Delta topco made the announcement of Ecclestone’s departure from his position on the board saying:

‘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.

‘It is in the best interests of both the F1 business and the sport that Mr Ecclestone should continue to run the business on a day to day basis, but subject to increased monitoring and control by the Board. Mr Ecclestone has agreed to these arrangements.

‘The approval and signing of significant contracts and other material business arrangements shall now be the responsibility of the Chairman, Mr Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, and Deputy Chairman, Mr Donald Mackenzie.’

What does all of this mean? I suspect the reason is quite simple in that it is a brand equity issue of having a potential fraud case against a board member. In business prudence, removing yourself from a board until matters have been resolved takes the imputed litigiousness away from the holding company—Delta topco—and keeps the board, the employees and running of the organization away from the white heat of the legal flame. Standard procedure really.

What I find intriguing is that the German court decided to move forward without first hearing the UK court’s decision on the Constantin case verdict. The court must feel it has plenty of evidence to go to trial and there are surely some young German prosecutors salivating at their big attempt at killing the white whale.

Either way, it is the dénouement if you will of Mr. Ecclestone’s long and industrious career. Am I advocating the end of his reign at the helm of F1? Of course not but it is the unraveling of his chokehold on the neck of F1. Having said that, I will caution F1 fans by saying that you may think this is an “about time!” kind of moment in F1 but I submit to you that the replacement may be far worse than our diminutive schlockmeister from Suffolk.

A cursory search of Mr. Donald Mackenzie will give you some insight into the thinking behind the chairman of F1’s holding company and what we might expect in the future. Brace yourselves, the future is bright but no one is quite sure if that’s the bright light of hope and growth or the fires of hell.

I’ve been a long-time advocate of Mr. Ecclestone and taken a lot of heat for my position but I do recognize that not all of his dealings have been Class-A types of deals. Regardless, F1 is what it is because of this remarkable man and we’ll see what comes of this court case…my hunch is a hefty fine.

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