CVC would fire F1 boss Ecclestone if found guilty

Mon Nov 18, 2013 9:50am EST
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By Keith Weir

LONDON (Reuters) - Formula One shareholder CVC would not hesitate to sack motor sport boss Bernie Ecclestone if he had committed a crime in his dealings with a jailed German banker, CVC co-founder Donald Mackenzie told a court on Monday.

Mackenzie denied that Ecclestone, who has built Formula One into a global money-spinner over the past four decades, was being kept in his post because of his importance to the business. Ecclestone remains a hands-on chief executive at the age of 83.

"If it is proven that Mr Ecclestone has done anything that is criminally wrong, we would fire him," Mackenzie told a hearing at London's High Court.

Ecclestone is facing a $100 million damages claim over allegations that he sold the business for too little when CVC became the largest shareholder in a deal agreed in late 2005.

The legal fallout from that deal has raised questions about whether Ecclestone can maintain his long grip on the sport and further complicated stalled plans to list the business on the stock market in Singapore.

Lawyers for German firm Constantin Medien argue that Ecclestone favored a sale to CVC because it planned to keep him on as chief executive.

Mackenzie, a deal-maker who tends to avoid the media spotlight, told the court that Ecclestone had apologized for not immediately telling him about a multi-million dollar payment made to German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky after Gribkowsky's arrest in January 2011.

Mackenzie recalled a meeting with Ecclestone in February 2011 at which the Formula One head told him of the payment, despite earlier denials.   Continued...

Formula One commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone looks on at the start of the qualifying session of the Belgian F1 Grand Prix in Spa Francorchamps September 1, 2012. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir