07/17/2013 05:32 PM
Formula One Boss Indicted in Germany
Prosecutors in Munich indicted Bernie Ecclestone, the head of Formula One, on Wednesday for bribery related to the sale of a stake in the motor racing business eight years ago. The case could threaten the 82-year-old's future as chief executive.
The Munich state prosecutor's office filed an indictment on Wednesday against Formula One motor racing boss Bernie Ecclestone, 82, on suspicion of bribery and abetting breach of trust.
Ecclestone is accused of having paid a bribe of $44 million (about €34 million) to Gerhard Gribkowsky, a former management board member of German regional bank BayernLB, during the bank's sale of a 48 percent stake in a Formula One holding company to CVC Capital Partners, a London-based private equity investor, eight years ago. Ecclestone was keen to have CVC as a new shareholder.
Gribkowsky was sentenced to eight and a half years in jail last year for accepting the money and failing to pay taxes on it. The judge in that case said in his verdict that the BayernLB manager had been "led into crime" by Ecclestone.
Since then, the state prosecutor's office has also been investigating Ecclestone, who has denied the allegations. Ecclestone told the Associated Press on Wednesday: "They are alleging I bribed someone." He added that he had done "nothing illegal."
Ecclestone said his payments to Gribkowsky weren't bribes. He told a Munich court in 2011 that he paid Gribowsky to "keep him quiet" after the banker put him under pressure over his tax affairs.
The End of an Era?
The case could delay plans to float the Formula One business on the Singapore stock exchange at the end of the year. It could also mark the end of Ecclestone's more than three-decade reign of Formula One.
According to media reports, Formula One insiders have privately been saying that an indictment by the Munich prosecutors would turn global sponsors against him.
Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo has implied in the past that Ecclestone should quit if he's prosecuted. Last December he said that Ecclestone loves motor racing and "will be the first to step back in the interests of Formula One."
cro -- with wire reports
German Prosecutor Indicts Formula One Boss Ecclestone For Bribery - SPIEGEL ONLINE
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