Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone won a multimillion-dollar case at London’s High Court relating to the sale of F1 in 2005 but the judge nevertheless said it was a corrupt deal.
A former F1 shareholder, German media company Constantin Medien, had sued Ecclestone and other defendants for up to $144m, claiming F1 was undervalued at the time of the sale to investment group CVC Capital Partners.
Ecclestone was accused of entering into a ‘corrupt agreement’ with a banker to facilitate the sale of Formula One Group to a buyer chosen by him.
Britain’s High Court ruled Thursday that the deal was corrupt but said that Constantin Medien did not lose out as a result.
During the trial, which ran from October to December last year, Constantin Medien’s lawyers said that payments totaling about $45m were made to German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky at the instigation of Ecclestone.
Gribkowsky, who was in charge of selling German bank BayernLB’s 47% stake in F1 to CVC, has already been found guilty of corruption, tax evasion and breach of trust and is serving a 8 1/2-year prison sentence.
“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 Formula One group to a buyer acceptable to Mr Ecclestone,” judge Guy Newey said in his conclusions.
Ecclestone is also facing trial in Germany. The 83-year-old is charged with bribery and incitement to breach of trust connected with the payment to Gribkowsky. The trial will begin on April 24 and is set to run until September.