Bernie Ecclestone has again proved himself the great survivor by maintaining the support of the only man who can save him from the sack - a publicity-shy businessman called Donald Mackenzie.
Sportsmail understands that Mackenzie, the chairman of CVC, the private equity firm which owns the largest shareholding in Formula One, has withstood pressure from the board to remove Ecclestone after he was called “untruthful and corrupt” by a judge last week.
Although Mackenzie, 57, declined to offer public backing for Ecclestone, sources have revealed he remains loyal for two reasons. The first is that Ecclestone, with his flair and experience, makes the business more money than anyone else could and the second is that there is nobody lined up to take over.
Therefore, Ecclestone will stay on as Formula One’s chief executive - and all-seeing impresario - unless he is found guilty of bribery in a criminal court case in Munich this April.
However, given that Ecclestone is 83, a replacement must be found soon. One board member told Sportsmail the only plausible contender is Christian Horner, the Red Bull team principal, who was named by Ecclestone as his preferred successor last November.
HARD TO REPLACE
The well-placed source said: “Christian fits the bill. Bernie is unique and no one can do what he has been doing. Simple as that. We need someone with experience of Formula One, someone who can deal with television rights and commercial contracts. The fact Bernie would train Christian up, in effect, looks like a solution to many of the directors.”
Ecclestone, who stores every contract in his office and all the know-how in his head, holds a strong hand with regards to who replaces him and when.
It seems likely that only a jail sentence in Munich, where Ecclestone is accused of bribing German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky to sell the sport to CVC at an undervalued price, will unseat the octogenarian billionaire in the immediate future.
For as well as support from Mackenzie, Ecclestone has the backing of Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, the chairman of Delta Topco, the F1 board that comprises CVC and the other shareholders.
Brabeck-Letmathe was won over by Ecclestone’s ‘genius’ in building palaces out of sand - namely, taking the sport to new venues such as Bahrain and Abu Dhabi - and making huge profits in the process.
Ecclestone is still stung by the findings of Mr Justice Newey last week. Despite ruling against Constantin Medien, a German media firm and former share-holders in F1 who believe they lost out because Ecclestone bribed Gribkowsky to sell the sport for less than its market value, Newey said Ecclestone had lied in evidence.
“Tell me where I lied,” said Ecclestone on Tuesday. “I can’t see where the evidence is for that.”