Formula One’s Bernie Ecclestone accused of bribery: A fan’s take

On July 20, German prosecutors revealed that they are investigating accusations of bribery involving Bernie Ecclestone. As the chief executive of Formula One, Ecclestone allegedly paid a German banker $44 million and later received $41.4 million from Bayerische Landesbank. An additional $25 million from the German bank went to the Ecclestone's family trust. The bribes date back to 2005 and are related to the sale of Formula One.

Bernie Ecclestone
Wikimedia Commons

I am not surprised by the recent accusations. Bernie Ecclestone has always handled his business ruthlessly, and the focus on money has remained his top priority. Although he has proclaimed his innocence, it seems unlikely that he was not involved in this scheme.

Timing and Problems

The accusations are making headlines right before the start of the German Grand Prix on July 22. Is this another media stunt? Perhaps this is an attempt to hinder the sale of Formula One by CVC Capital Partners. The company paid $1.7 billion in 2005 to acquire it, but there have been many rumors that they are trying to sell it and are searching for viable buyers.

Formula One has always been involved in controversy. The bribery issues are not the only recent scandal involving the race. Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. was allegedly interested in purchasing Formula One prior to the phone-hacking issues. It does not seem likely that their takeover bid will happen now.

Prior to his recent scandal, Bernie Ecclestone expressed interest in purchasing back Formula One. Although he is still the chief executive, he sold his shares in 2005 to CVC Capital Partners. Apparently, he is regretting the decision. However, Ecclestone's recent legal problems will probably hamper his takeover dreams as he tries to prove his innocence.

Consequences

The German banker involved in the bribery, Gerhard Gribkowsky, has already been charged and could face a long prison sentence. At this point, it is not clear if Bernie Ecclestone will also be charged. The German prosecutors have stated they are still investigating the case. At 80 years old, Ecclestone will probably still attend the German Grand Prix and may not face any serious consequences for his involvement in the bribery.

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Growing up in Indiana, Lana developed a love for motorsports at an early age. She follows NASCAR, IndyCar and Formula One.

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Updated Thursday, Jul 21, 2011