FORMULA One boss Bernie Ecclestone hit out last night after an American company filed a £409m lawsuit against him and private equity firm CVC over the 2006 takeover of the motorsport series.
Investment firm Bluewaters Communications Holdings, which made a bid to buy a controlling stake in F1 in 2005 from German bank BayernLB, filed the suit on Friday in New York. CVC was the winning bidder and paid £1.1bn for F1 in 2006 but Bluewaters says it was the rightful owner because it offered “10 per cent above any genuine bona-fide offer put forward by any other competing buyer”.
Its lawsuit claims Ecclestone bribed BayernLB to sell its 47.2 per cent stake to CVC since it had pledged to retain him as F1’s chief executive. Bluewaters says it gave “no commitment to him in that regard”.
But Ecclestone told City A.M.: “He put it in writing that no matter what anyone else paid he would give 10 per cent more but unless there is a bank guarantee it doesn’t really matter. It’s hard to believe anyone would do that. What would be interesting to find out is at the time was he in a position to pay that and where would he have got the money from? It’s just a tiresome lot of aggravation. His claim is an absurd claim. He didn’t know that the other bidders were going to pay.”
BayernLB’s former chief risk officer Gerhard Gribkowsky was found guilty in June of receiving a £27m bribe from Ecclestone and his family trust for steering F1 to CVC. BayernLB was not aware until late 2010.
Ecclestone is being investigated by German prosecutors but has not been charged with any wrongdoing. He says he only paid the money because Gribkowsky threatened to tip off the taxman with false allegations about his tax affairs.