Formula One Group's main shareholder, investment group CVC, is continuing to take a 'wait and see' approach to the current legal crisis affecting the sort's CEO Bernie Ecclestone, who has been formally indicted by German prosecutors over the payment of an alleged bribe in connection with the 2006 $1.7bn sale of F1 to the private equity firm.
Last week CVC issued an official press release saying that it would "continue to monitor developments in this situation" and this week a source within CVC told Britain's Daily Telegraph
newspaper that "our actions show that we support Bernie."
Ecclestone's legal team has six weeks to respond to the indictment, and his lawyer has promised "a comprehensive submission" detailing inconsistencies in the claims of the prosecution's chief witness, Gerhard Gribkowsky. Ecclestone claims that Gribkowsky threatened to make false accusations about his tax affairs to Britain's tax authorities if he was not paid the alleged bribe.
The source added that in the event the legal process did ultimately force Ecclestone to step down from his day-to-day role overseeing the sport, a successor would have to come from outside the group. Existing personnel consists of just 313 staff and 10 senior management posts, and no deputy or chief operating officer who might succeed the 83-year-old.
"The business is too small to have a successor lurking in the ranks. The successor almost certainly has to come from externally," agreed the newspaper's source.
Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner has been tagged as a possible successor to Ecclestone, but the majority of names come from outside the sport and include Sainsbury's CEO Justin King and former M&S boss Sir Stuart Rose.
“I've no idea whether the boss of a company like Sainsbury's could do my job. Maybe he could,” Ecclestone told The Guardian
newspaper in April when King's name was first attached to the post. (See story
And it doesn't seem that the shareholders are in any rush to have to find out who would be best placed to succeed the inimitable F1 ringmaster.
"The reality is that Bernie runs the business and he is much closer to what is going on than we are," said the CVC source. "We are obviously important in the sense that we are the shareholders but we don't run the business on a day to day basis."