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Ecclestone trial decision delayed in Germany

21 September 2013

The decision over whether or not F1 business supremo Bernie Ecclestone will face trial in a German court over bribery charges has been postponed and may not be known until next year, reports on Friday said.

Ecclestone is alleged to have paid a $44 million 'bribe' to Gerhard Gribkowsky in 2006 over the sale of F1 shares to CVC Capital Partners, the sport's biggest current shareholder. Gribkowsky has already been jailed for taking the alleged bribe and for other offences.

Lawyers acting for Ecclestone have already handed over about 250 pages of documents to the court three weeks ago and plan to make further filings in the coming weeks having successfully applied for an extension to the deadline for submissions.

The Munich Higher Regional Court had previously indicated that it would make a decision in mid-September on whether to proceed to trial, but a statement on Friday said that would wait for the additional responses from Ecclestone's legal team.

"The judges do not want to be put under pressure. The decision should not be broken over the knee," said court spokesperson Margarete Nötzel, who added that the decision on whether to go to trial "can no longer be expected this year."

Ecclestone denies any wrongdoing, but also faces civil action in the London High Court over the same allegations that will be heard in October.

The issue has hung over Ecclestone for most of 2013 and led to rumours that the 82-year-old might be forced to finally step away and give up his grip on F1's commercial interests, with many in the sport already turning their thoughts to what a post-Ecclestone era would look like.

"The work can no longer be centralised around just one man," Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo told La Gazzetta dello Sport this week. "We will need to rethink everything, with a structure that provides for a head of administration and finance, a commercial director and a number one for technical matters."

In the meantime, Ecclestone maintains the backing of CVC which said that it was monitoring the situation but not planning on intervening in Ecclestone's stewardship of the sport.

Instead, CVC has been linked to a $2 billion bid for media rights agency IMG Worldwide, which counts among its clients supermodel Heidi Klum and tennis top seed Novak Djokovic.

CVC is reported by Sky News to have linked up with sovereign-backed wealth funds Mumtalakat of Bahrain and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) to make a bid for a 60 per cent stake in the business from current owner, private equity firm Forstmann Little.


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