Formula One Boss Bernie Ecclestone Denies Bribing German Banker (Report)
COLOGNE, Germany -- Bernie Ecclestone, head of the lucrative Formula One racing circuit, has gone on the offensive after a German banker last week was convicted of accepting bribes from Ecclestone to facilitate a business deal.
Former BayernLB Chief Risk Officer Gerhard Gribkowsky confessed he received $50 million (€44 million) in bribes from Ecclestone in exchange, he claimed, for waving through the sale of his bank's stake in Formula One to CVC, a British investment group close to Ecclestone.
But in an interview published this weekend in German news magazine Focus, Ecclestone denies all wrongdoing, saying Gribkowsky is lying.
In the interview, Ecclestone admits to having paid Gribkowsky some 10 million Pounds ($15.7 million) but says the money was to stop the German banker from threatening to provide information to U.K. tax authorities. Ecclestone claims he was being "shaken down" by Gribkowsky. Even though he had done nothing wrong, Ecclestone said he decided to pay off Gribkowsky to avoid the cost, and hassle, of a tax investigation.
The 81-year-old racing boss dismissed rumors that he would step down as Formula One CEO as German authorities investigate his involvement in the bribery affair. He also said the case had nothing to do with his decision to delay the initial public offering of Formula One shares on the Singapore stock market, though Ecclestone admitted the timing of the investigation "was not very helpful."