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Ecclestone wins damages case around “F1 bribe”
Bernie Ecclestone has emerged victorious from the first of his two big battles in court this year, but the Judge, Mr Justice Newey, maintained in his written findings that there had been a “corrupt” deal with a German banker.
It wasn’t so much a win for Bernie in the High Court in London today as a loss for the plaintiff, Constantin Media. Constantin contended that a payment to Bayern LB banker Gerhard Gribkowsky, for which Gribkowsky is currently serving a prison sentence in Germany, obstructed “the normal and proper process” of the sale of Bayern’s share in F1.
As a result, the share went to Bernie’s preferred bidder, CVC Capital Partners, and not to Constantin. Constantin were in the High Court seeking damages of £85 million.
They however failed to demonstrate any financial loss to Mr Justice Newey (no relation to Red Bull designer Adrian), who stated in his written findings: “that fact is fatal to the claim.”
Newey went on: “Mr Ecclestone’s aim was to be rid of the banks. He was strongly averse to their involvement in the F1 Group and was keen that their shares should be transferred to someone more congenial to him.”
He also said: “The payments were a bribe. They were made because Mr Ecclestone had entered into a corrupt agreement with Dr Gribkowsky on 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.
“Even… making allowances for the lapse of time and Mr Ecclestone’s age, I am afraid that I find it impossible to regard him as a reliable or truthful witness.”
In a second case, due in a Munich court around Easter, Bernie faces a criminal trial over the payments to Gribkowsky. In the meantime he has stood down as director of F1, but continues to run the sport on a day-to-day basis.