Ecclestone Wins London High Court Case Against Gribkowsky
Munich — MunichNOW News — Bernie Ecclestone, the head of Formula One Management, won his legal battle Thursday against a German media company suing him over the sale of the Formula 1 Group, although as Judge Guy Newey at London’s High Court dismissed the charges, he did say Ecclestone had paid a “bribe.”
Constantin Media had accused Ecclestone of entering into a “corrupt agreement” with a German banker, Dr. Gerhard Gribkowsky (another of the defendants in this case), to steer the 2006 sale of the Formula 1 Group to the British billionaire’s preferred buyer. Constantin claimed they were therefore undervalued and lost out as a result, and sued Ecclestone for tens of millions of pounds.
Newey said the payment made by 83-year-old Ecclestone was indeed a “bribe,” but that he had not intended or desired that the shares be undervalued.
“No loss to Constantin has been shown to have been caused by the corrupt arrangement with Dr. (Gerhard) Gribkowsky,” the judge said. “That fact is fatal to the claim.”
Constantin sold its shares in Formula 1 Group to German bank BayernLB in 2003. The sale included a clause which stated that if the stake was sold again for more than a certain value, Constantin would receive a percentage of the proceeds.
A German court jailed former Bayern LB employee Gribkowsky for eight and a half years in 2012 for accepting a 44-million-dollar bribe from Ecclestone to make sure the stake was sold to its current owner, private equity firm CVC.
Ecclestone says it was only 17 million dollars, and that he paid it to prevent Gribkowsky from going to the UK tax authorities with allegations about the running of Ecclestone’s offshore trust - and that he only paid it after he was “shaken down” by the German.
However, in the final analysis, Newey commented: “The payments were a bribe. They were made because Mr. Ecclestone had entered into a corrupt agreement with Dr. Gribkowsky in May 2005 under which Dr. Gribkowsky was to be rewarded for facilitating the sale of BLB’s shares in the F1 Group to a buyer acceptable to Mr. Ecclestone.”
Constantin said it would appeal the ruling.
Although Ecclestone won this case, he will still have to travel to Munich for an even tougher case against Gribkowski, who is charging Ecclestone of bribery. This could cost Ecclestone the sport if he is found guilty. The trial will begin on April 24th.