By Quentin Spurring, Crain News Service
DETROIT (May 21, 2013) — Bernie Ecclestone's position as the CEO of Formula One Group was endorsed during a board meeting in Geneva last week, despite a possibility that he will be charged with a criminal offense by public prosecutors in Germany.
Last year, in a court in Munich, banking official Gerhard Gribkowsky was tried for accepting a $44 million bribe, tax evasion and a breach of judiciary duty. He was convicted and jailed for eight and a half years. During the trial, Mr. Ecclestone was identified as the person who had paid the bribe—and the court heard that its purpose had been to ensure that Mr. Gribkowsky sold a majority stake in the F1 business to the CVC Capital Partners private equity firm.
Mr. Ecclestone, who subsequently received a similar sum in commissions from CVC, admitted making the payment to Mr. Gribkowsky, but denied it was a bribe.
Last week, the office of the Staatsanwaltschaft München announced that it had completed an investigation into Mr. Ecclestone's involvement in the Gribkowsky case. The prosecutors now have three options: to drop the matter, to demand a "nonpenal" payment from Mr. Ecclestone or to prosecute him. Their decision is expected next month, and the UK's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) in London has declared an interest in the outcome. The SFO has been liaising with the German authorities to consider whether there was scope for its own investigation.
Mr. Ecclestone told The Sunday Times newspaper, "Everyone [on the F1 board] voted to support me staying on and running the business. The board agrees I should stay unless I'm convicted."
This report appeared on the website of Autoweek magazine, a Detroit-based sister publication of Tire Business.