Ethical Performance
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Bernie Ecclestone wins Formula One court case

April 2014

The first of the cases being brought against billionaire UK businessman Bernie Ecclestone has failed, even though the judge branded the Formula One supremo a corrupt operator.

Constantin Medien, a German media consultancy, which formerly held shares in the Formula One motor racing company, had sued 83-year-old Ecclestone and others for up to $144m (£86.7m, €104m), claiming they had undervalued the business for its sale to the investment group CVC Capital Partners, Ecclestone’s employer.

Ecclestone was accused of corrupt dealing with Dr Gerhard Gribkowsky, who led the sale of the 47% stake in Formula One owned by the German bank BayernLB.

Although Ecclestone agreed he had paid $44m to Gribkowsky at the time, he insisted this was to prevent the banker from reporting him to the tax authorities.

The London High Court rejected Constantin Medien’s civil claim on the grounds that it lost nothing through Ecclestone’s conduct.

However, Judge Guy Newey said: “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.”
Newey said Ecclestone could not be regarded as a reliable or truthful witness.

Ecclestone retorted: “[Newey] was supposed to be judging on whether shares had been sold cheap or not. If I had known character witnesses were needed I would have brought them. Now it’s a quiet time. I plan to do what I always do. It’s work as normal.”

In Germany he faces criminal charges of bribery and incitement to breach of trust related to the Gribkowsky payment.

The trial is due to start on April 24.  

Europe | Bribery

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