F1: Ecclestone faces new legal battle
FORMULA One supremo Bernie Ecclestone claims to be "aggravated" but "not worried" by the prospect of another potential High Court battle.
State-owned Bavarian bank BayernLB have approached lawyers in Germany representing Ecclestone demanding $400m as compensation for their apparent loss on the sale of F1 to private equity company CVC in 2006.
BayernLB sold their 47.2 per cent stake to CVC for $839m, triggering one lawsuit still awaiting a trial date, as well as sparking one of Germany's biggest corruption cases.
In June, Gerhard Gribkowsky, a former risk assessment officer for BayernLB and charged with F1's sale, was jailed for eight and a half years after being convicted of tax evasion, bribery and a breach of fiduciary duty over his involvement in the sale of F1.
Gribkowsky claimed to have received a payment from Ecclestone for ensuring the sale went according to plan.
Ecclestone has previously stated he made the payment after being “shaken down” by Gribkowsky, who had threatened to report the 81-year-old with regard to alleged tax evasion.
BayernLB claim Gribkowsky vastly undersold F1 to CVC, and in the wake of the latter's imprisonment, are now demanding a further return.
Asked about the matter in the paddock at the Buddh International Circuit ahead of Sunday's Indian Grand Prix, Ecclestone said: “They have asked our lawyers in Germany if they could have $400 million back.
“I didn't respond. There's no point is there? They will sue. If they win, they get paid. If they lose, it will cost them. That's all.
“A massive per cent of these actions that take place, people settle. They don't want the trouble.
“The very reason I gave Gribkowsky money was to stop the problem and aggravation which would have gone on for years.”
Ecclestone, however, has not offered to settle on this occasion and is prepared to go to court.
“Absolutely,” said Ecclestone. “I've been blackmailed twice. I don't want it to be a third time.
“But there's nothing to worry about. I'm not worried. I'm aggravated with the nonsense I'm being put through for all this.
“I sold the shares for the bank. It was something they couldn't sell.
“They had six people look at it and wouldn't buy. I got them out of trouble and now I'm in trouble. Life is like that sometimes.”
Ecclestone maintains the latest potential threat of legal action has no bearing on his position as chief executive of Formula One.
Ecclestone is still in the process of being sued by Dieter Hahn, a board member and shareholder of media group Constantin Medien, a former part-owner of F1.
Constantin Medien apparently had an agreement with BayernLB that the sale of the latter's shares would see them receive 10 per cent of any figure over one billion US dollars (£619m).
The fact the shares were sold for less than that figure sparked Hahn into launching a civil action.
“I've been under a cloud for three years. Dieter sued me two years ago,” added Ecclestone.
“I'm still waiting for that to come to court. If this goes to court (the case with BayernLB) in England, maybe different things will come out.
“But there's nothing to stop me running F1.”
Asked whether there was any chance he could end up in a German prison, Ecclestone replied: “I hope not. I really hope not.
“I wouldn't complain about German prisons, but I'd rather not be in one anywhere to be honest.”