Formula One Boss Bernie Ecclestone Wins Bribery Case in London High Court

3:57 AM PST 02/20/2014 by Scott Roxborough
Bernie Ecclestone

The racing supremo still faces criminal charges in Germany related to the sale of his F1 racing circuit in 2005 and 2006.

Formula One racing boss Bernie Ecclestone has won a multimillion-dollar court case against German media group Constantin Media.

Constantin had sued Ecclestone for damages of up to $144 million (£86m) related to the sale of the F1 racing circuit back in 2005 and 2006. The German group said it lost money because the sport was deliberately undervalued when it was sold to private equity company CVC Partners, a group with close ties to Ecclestone, in 2005.

Ecclestone is accused of bribing the German banker who approved the sale.

But in a ruling Thursday, London's High Court judged that while Ecclestone's payment of some $44 million to former BayernLB banker Gerhard Gribkowsky was a "bribe" and that there had been a "corrupt agreement" between the two regarding the F1 sale, it rejected Constantin's damages claim, saying there was no evidence the German company had suffered a loss as a result of the sale.

Constantin said it will appeal the decision, citing the court's ruling that it regards as proven that Ecclestone was aware of the danger that the sale was conducted below value.

Ecclestone has always denied any wrongdoing in the case. He admits to the payment but claims he was blackmailed by Gribkowsky.

The 83-year-old racing supremo still faces criminal charges in Germany, where he is accused of bribery. The German case resumes in Munich in April. If found guilty, Ecclestone could face up to 10 years in prison. Gribkowsky was found guilty of corruption and tax evasion in 2012 and received an eight-and-a-half-year jail sentence.

Ecclestone did not appear at Thursday's hearing in London. He stood down as a director of F1's holding company, Delta Topco Limited, last month after the German court announced it would go ahead with the criminal case against him.

A former used-car salesman, Ecclestone built up Formula One from a small racing circuit to one of the world's largest sporting empires. In terms of global television audience, Formula One is the second-largest sporting event in the world after soccer.

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