Ecclestone: What I paid him was a very small amount, what I call an insurance policy

7 November, 2013

Bernie Ecclestone with Gerhard Gribkowsky at the 2005 Turkish GP

Bernie Ecclestone with Gerhard Gribkowsky at the 2005 Turkish GP

A multi-million dollar payment to a jailed German banker was an “insurance policy”, Formula 1 Chief Executive Bernie Ecclestone said on Wednesday, denying it was linked to the sale of a stake in the business to private equity firm CVC.

Billionaire Ecclestone is defending a $100 million damages claim brought by German media firm Constantin Medien who accuse him and three other defendants of deliberately undervaluing F1 in the 2005 sale to safeguard his position as CEO.

The legal fallout from the sale of a controlling stake in the business to CVC is threatening Ecclestone’s four-decade hold on the glamorous motor sport and complicating stalled efforts to float it on the stock market in Singapore.

A Munich court in 2012 jailed Gerhard Gribkowsky, former chief risk officer at German bank BayernLB, for tax evasion and bribery for taking a $44 million payment after the 2005 sale.

Gerhard Gribkowsky  with Jackie Stewart during the 2006 Bahrain GP weekend

Gerhard Gribkowsky with Jackie Stewart during the 2006 Bahrain GP weekend

Ecclestone, 83, said he paid Gribkowsky 10 million pounds ($16 million) but said that was because the German banker was threatening to make damaging claims about a family trust to the British tax authorities that could have cost him up to 2 billion pounds.

“What I paid him was a very small amount, what I call an insurance policy,” Ecclestone told a hearing at the High Court in London, calling it “quite a cheap insurance policy”.

He said there was no link to a deal in which CVC paid BayernLB $830 million for a 47 percent stake in F1. “This issue was nothing to do with anyone except Gribkowsky and myself, nobody else.”

Ecclestone has run F1 for four decades, turning it into a money-spinner with annual revenue of around $2 billion generated by races held around the world watched by hundreds of millions of TV viewers.

A German court is due to decide next year whether Ecclestone himself should stand trial on bribery charges linked to the Gribkowsky payment. Ecclestone denies any wrongdoing.

Gerhard Gribkowsky with Bernie Ecclestone and Flavio Briatore at Monza in 2005

Gerhard Gribkowsky with Bernie Ecclestone and Flavio Briatore at Monza in 2005

Giving evidence in the damages case brought by Constantin Medien, Ecclestone repeated previous statements that he was being put under pressure by Gribkowsky whom he feared would make false claims about his tax affairs.

He denied misleading F1 board members including Martin Sorrell, chief executive of advertising group WPP, and Peter Brabeck, chairman of Nestle, about payments to Gribkowsky.

“It wasn’t the slightest concern of theirs,” he said. “I paid him because I was being I said ‘shaken down’,” he added, saying this was what he had told the F1′s directors in 2011 after Gribkowsky had been arrested.

Constantin is the successor to German media firm and former shareholder EM.TV. It says it missed out on a share of the proceeds had the sale price for the stake exceeded $1.05 billion.

It argues that Ecclestone favoured a sale to CVC because it planned to keep him on as CEO of a business which he continues to run as a hands-on chief executive.

Questioned repeatedly in court about newspaper reports quoting him after the Gribkowsky arrest, Ecclestone said: “Most of these journalists should be working closely with…what’s his name..? Jeffrey Archer,” referring to the best-selling author and former Member of Parliament. (Reuters)

Subbed by AJN.


  • Boycottthebull

    If your being shaken down as Bernie puts it shouldnt you go to the police? Why Would Bernie fear this guy making claims about his taxes even going as far as to pay him tens of millions of euro unless those claims were true? Either way the money was to cover some illegal dirt. Bribery. tax fraud or corruption, which is it? Either way he is going down, unless the untouchable rich rule applies as it does in alot of countries.

  • Fg

    So the billion dollar question is what secret did Bernie pay $10million to silence?

  • captain tortuga

    as i read it, Bernie is going down, what i hear are excuses of a guilty man.

  • Boycotthehaters

    I wishbi had some dirt on bernie.

    I could really use ten mill

  • PB

    The mere fact that hush money was paid to the German and his jail sentence should raise alarm bells in UK courts and tax offices.

  • matt

    I hope that worthless old crook goes to jail for a long time. He thinks hes above the law.

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