F1's Ecclestone faces German bribery trial

Thu Jan 16, 2014 6:07am EST
 
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MUNICH (Reuters) - Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone will stand trial on bribery charges in Munich over the sale of a stake in his multi-billion dollar sport, a German court said on Thursday.

"Under current planning, the main trial should start in late April," the Munich court said in a statement on Thursday.

Ecclestone, 83, was charged in July with bribing former German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky to smooth the sale of a stake in the motor racing business to private equity firm CVC eight years ago.

Ecclestone has denied wrongdoing and said he will fight to clear his name.

"The decision to go to trial is normal and in no way is it a finding in the issue at hand. This is something that is up to the trial itself," Ecclestone's lawyers in Germany Sven Thomas and Norbert Scharf said in a statement.

"The alleged bribery never took place. The accusations that are based on Gribkowsky's testimony are incorrect and based on the facts offer no coherent picture."

Legal problems stemming from the CVC sale threaten to end Ecclestone's long hold on a sport that attracts hundreds of millions of television viewers to its series of grand prix races held around the globe.

The legal issues also make it hard to revisit stalled efforts to launch an initial public offering of Formula One on the Singapore stock market.

CVC paid about $830 million for BayernLB's 47 percent stake in Formula One, after the business had fallen into the hands of a group of banks following the collapse of German media company and controlling shareholder Kirch.   Continued...

 
Formula One Chief Executive Bernie Ecclestone arrives at the High Court in central London in this November 6, 2013 file photo. REUTERS/Olivia Harris/files