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GP Week : Issue 194
F1 >>> nEWs Bernie's case gets to the High Court A lawsuit seeking damages from Formula One commercial supremo Bernie ecclestone has got underway in London’s High Court. The legal action is just one of a number of cases currently under way against the sport’s commercial supremo stemming from the sale of the commercial arm of Formula One to private equity firm CVC Capital, and all of which link to the German trial of banker Gerhard Gribkowsky, who was last year found guilty of accepting a bribe from Ecclestone. The case in London, filed by German media company Constantin Medien, accuses Ecclestone of making a “corrupt agreement” to stay in overall control of the sport and paying Gribkowsky – then working at Bayern LB – a bribe to facilitate the sale of the bank’s stake in the business to CVC at a bargain price. Constantin Medien, then a shareholder in the business with an interest in the sale, claims that it lost out as a result of the business being sold below value and is suing Ecclestone for over $100 million in damages. But Ecclestone’s lawyer argued that the claim was without merit. “This is a case that simply does not add up,” the Daily Telegraph reported Ecclestone’s lawyer, Robert Miles, as saying in court. According to the defence presented by Miles, Ecclestone would have had no interest in undervaluing the business given that his family’s Bambino Holdings trust was selling its own 25 percent stake at the same price. Miles further argued that the case against Ecclestone was based on allegations made by Gribkowsky, who Miles described as a “fantasist” in written submissions to the court. Ecclestone, who turned 83 last Monday, has also faced legal trouble in Germany. A court in Munich has postponed until next year a decision on whether to try Ecclestone on bribery charges for paying Gribkowsky $44 million to facilitate the sale of the stake to CVC. Ecclestone has admitted to paying Gribkowsky – currently ser ving jail time after being convicted of tax evasion, bribery and a breach of fiduciary trust – but has denied it was a bribe. Instead, Ecclestone says the payment was hush money intended to silence the banker who had threatened to tip British tax authorities off to the Formula One ringmaster’s tax affairs. The billionaire insists his financial affairs are all above board, but said he made the payment to avoid the hassles of a multi-year tax probe. “These payments were made because Dr Gribkowsky was ‘shaking down’ – in effect blackmailing – Mr Ecclestone in respect of his tax arrangements,” Miles said in the written submissions to the court. “The suggestion that this was all done to entrench his position simply does not bear scrutiny.” 12 GPWEEK.com // 12 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: