Veteran F1 boss Ecclestone faces German bribery trial

Sun Apr 20, 2014 4:07am EDT
 
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By Keith Weir

LONDON (Reuters) - Formula One chief executive Bernie Ecclestone goes on trial for bribery in Germany this week in a case that threatens to end the Briton's long reign as the commercial boss of the motor sport.

Prosecutors in Munich have charged Ecclestone, 83, with bribing jailed former German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky to smooth the sale eight years ago of a stake in Formula One to private equity firm CVC.

CVC remain the largest shareholder in Formula One, a business that generates annual revenues of over $1.5 billion from its series of grand prix races held around the world.

CVC co-chairman Donald Mackenzie has said that he would fire Ecclestone if he was found guilty of wrongdoing.

Ecclestone, a former used car salesman who became a billionaire by building the sport into a global money spinner over the past four decades, denies wrongdoing and says he will fight to clear his name.

He could face up to 10 years in jail if convicted.

The case opens in Munich on Thursday but hearings will be held only once or twice a week to allow Ecclestone to carry on the day-to-day running of the motor sport. It is scheduled to last at least until September.

Despite his age, Ecclestone attends almost every grand prix and remains central to the sport's commercial success. He has always dismissed talk of retirement and there is no obvious replacement when he does finally quit or is forced out.   Continued...

 
Formula One commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone's hair blows in the wind while being interviewed as he walks at the paddock after the third practice session of the Bahrain F1 Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) in Sakhir, south of Manama April 5, 2014. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed