Bernie Ecclestone says that he is irritated by another twist in his relationship with the German banks that helped bail out a former owner of F1, but insists that nothing will stop him retaining his role at the head of the sport.
BayernLB this week issued a demand for $400m, which it is claiming as damages for monies lost when former chief risk officer Gerhard Gribkowsky accepted a 'bribe' to sell its stake in the sport to CVC Capital in 2006. While Ecclestone denies that the payments amounted to bribery, insisting that he was paying out to avoid details of his finances being revealed, Gribkowsky was jailed for eight-and-a-half years after being found guilty of taking $44m from the Briton's Bambino Holdings trust.
The courts questioned Ecclestone during its investigation, and rumours continue to suggest that the F1 ringmaster could face further accusations, but the more immediate issue for him to deal with is BayernLB's claim that it lost money that could have been earned by remaining a stakeholder in the sport. It is not the only claim Ecclestone faces either, as a former Bayern board member, Dieter Hahn, believes that his Constantin Medien operation missed out when F1 was valued at less than $1bn.
"[BayernLB] have asked our lawyers in Germany if they could have $400m back,” Ecclestone told Britain's Daily Telegraph
newspaper ahead of this weekend's Indian Grand Prix, “I didn't respond - there's no point is there? They will sue. If they win, they get paid. If they lose, it will cost them.
I'm aggravated with the nonsense I'm being put through for all this. I sold the shares for the bank as it was something they couldn't sell. They had six people look at it and wouldn't buy. I got them out of trouble and now I'm in trouble. Life is like that sometimes.”
The 81-year old insisted that he would be prepared to take the matter to the courts but, despite speculation to the contrary, claimed that he wasn't afraid of any outcome that could jeopardise his control over F1.
“In a massive per cent of these actions, people settle [because] they don't want the trouble," he explained, "The very reason I gave Gribkowsky money was to stop the problem and aggravation which would have gone on for years. I've been under a cloud for three years. Dieter sued me two years ago, and I'm still waiting for that to come to court. If [the BayernLB claim] goes to court in England, maybe different things will come out, but there's nothing to worry about. There's nothing to stop me running F1.”
Ecclestone's obstinacy may not be supported by CVC, however, with the rights holder apparently growing tired of being dragged into stories surrounding his financial dealings. According to the UK's Times
newspaper, CVC's top brass has already engaged a headhunter to shortlist potential successors to the Briton, whose influence over the sport stretches back through three decades.