Ecclestone facing more legal trouble

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IOL mot pic jan8 F1 Ecclestone Getty Lawsuit could threaten Eccletones position in Formula One driving seat. Here he tells Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery exactly which way is up. Picture: Paul Gilham

Bernie Ecclestone is facing the prospect of another major lawsuit which could threaten his position in Formula One's driving seat if he loses his current High Court battle.

In the final few days of the court hearing in December, it came to light that a new lawsuit claiming $400 million (R4.26 billion) from the motorsport tycoon was due to be filed within weeks.

Ecclestone has said he thinks the new claim will get thrown out if he wins the ongoing case, but has vowed to fight the new suit if it goes ahead.

German media rights firm Constantin Medien claimed in court that Ecclestone and his Bambino family trust paid a $44 million (R470 million) bribe to undervalue a 47.2 percent stake in Formula One when it was sold by German bank BayernLB to private equity firm CVC in 2006.

CVC bought the stake for $814 million (R8.68 billion) but Constantin says other buyers would have paid more.

The bribe was paid to BayernLB banker Gerhard Gribkowsky and Constantin alleges that in return he steered the sale of F1 to CVC - because it had agreed to retain Ecclestone as the sport's chief executive.

The media rights firm claims it lost out since it had an agreement with BayernLB entitling it to 10 percent of the proceeds if the stake sold for more than $1.1 billion (R11.73 billion ).

Constantin has sued Ecclestone, Gribkowsky, Bambino and its former legal adviser Stephen Mullens for $140.4 million (R2.96 billion).

Judgement in the case is due early this year.

During the final few days of the Constantin hearing, BayernLB won access to the documents from the trial; a spokesman announced that the bank “expects to file suit against Ecclestone in the High Court in London in January 2014”.

Like Constantin, it claims that the F1 stake was undervalued and it is understood to want $400 million (R4.26 billion) in damages.

When asked whether he expects BayernLB to take legal action if the judge in the Constantin trial rules that the stake was not undervalued, Ecclestone said: “No. BayernLB are waiting for a settlement.”

He said he might force the case to be heard even if he wins the ongoing case.

In 2012 a German court sentenced Gribkowsky to eight year and six months in prison for receiving the alleged bribe. Ecclestone may yet be put on trial for paying it.

He denies paying a bribe and says Gribkowsky threatened to make false allegations about his tax affairs if the money wasn’t paid. - The Independent



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