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German banker in F1 corruption scandal gets 8 year jail term
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Posted By: James Allen  |  27 Jun 2012   |  11:41 pm GMT  |  75 comments

Gerhard Gribkowsky, the banker from Bayern LB who was once chairman of the F1 holding board, has been convicted of corruption and sentenced to eight and a half years in jail.

According to Reuters this evening, “Presiding judge Peter Noll convicted BayernLB’s former chief risk officer Gerhard Gribkowsky of tax evasion, bribery and breach of fiduciary trust in a court in Munich.

“Noll described the billionaire (Bernie) Ecclestone as the “driving force” behind the payments but said Gribkowsky, in turn, had shown “high criminal energy” ”

Prosecutor Christophe Rodler had summed up his case by saying that Ecclestone was “not the victim of extortion but the accomplice in an act of bribery.”


Grobkowsky was charged with accepting $44 million in bribes, which revolved around the sale of F1 to CVC in 2005 and specifically to a payment made by Ecclestone. Prosecutors said that the payment related to the sale by Bayern LB to CVC of its 48% share in the F1 business in 2005, which Ecclestone wanted to happen.

Ecclestone has not been charged by the German prosecutors and has denied any wrongdoing. He has always maintained that the payment was not bribery but instead was to stop Gribkowsky from following through on a threat to make allegations to UK tax inspectors about Ecclestone’s tax affairs relating to the family trust.

It is not clear tonight where the verdict leaves Ecclestone from a legal point of view in Germany as he now waits to learn whether prosecutors will mount a case against him, but he maintains that his version of the story is the truth,

“They based their decisions on what he told them. I told them the truth,” Ecclestone is quoted by Reuters as saying after the Gribkowsky verdict was announced. “I think Mr Gribkowsky told them what he thought he had to tell them. I don’t think I should (face further action) but you don’t know, do you?”

The development comes as CVC seeks to float the F1 business on the Singapore stock exchange. The floatation won’t go ahead this summer, as intended due to market turmoil, but it is ready to go and there are plans to try to get it away later this year.

CVC has cut its stake in F1 from over 60% down to around 35% with disposals recently to major blue chip investment houses in the US and Norway.

Meanwhile the German financial newspaper Handelsblatt carried a story today that internal advice within Mercedes is that it should consider withdrawing its team from F1 over this bribery scandal as it runs against the company’s statutes relating to involvement with corruption.

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  1. Ry says:

    This is gonna get VERY messy………

    1. Wayne says:

      Maybe it’s about time, I do not KNOW anything at all but it has always felt like F1 has been run like an ‘old boys network’ and perhaps this needs to stop. But as much as some of us complain about the manouvering and politics, might we miss it just a bit if F1 was ‘sterilised’?

      For better or worse, F1 will never be the same again without Bernie, just has it has never been quite the same since Max was whipped by his peers.

      1. Wayne says:

        P.S – it could always be so very much worse, FIFA is, in my opinion, the greatest example of blinding arrogance, unfathomable corruption and chauvenism :) Blatter makes Bernie look like snow white in my opinion.

      2. Gallo says:

        agree!
        Batter should have been jailed long ago!

      3. RedChimp says:

        I thought it was a bunch of call girls that whipped Max?

      4. Richard says:

        I believe they were counting in German.

  2. madmax says:

    If Mercedes withdraw over that or the Concorde talks any idea James what would happen the team??

    Would Brawn step in again and take ownership??

    1. James Allen says:

      I doubt he would do that again

      1. Random Person says:

        Why not? He made a huge amount of money doing that with Brawn. Surely if Mercedes leave the team under a ‘compassionate’ deal like Honda did, it would be a no-brainer?

      2. Kay says:

        What happened and how it helped Brawn to make money was like one in a zillion chance. I recall JA answered this kind of question already in one of his previous articles.

        Brawn is too tired to do this all over again.

      3. James Allen says:

        I think his recent health scare would also make it unlikely, plus he’s already done everything there is to do in F1

      4. Tank says:

        So, Gribkowsky charged in Germany, but Ecclestone is not.

        Mercedes saying it would have to withdraw from the sport if Ecclestone is charged with corruption.

        Mercedes has a poor deal at present with the latest concorde agreement.

        What is the reason not to charge Ecclestone if he is an accomplice? Lack of evidence or a card for Mercedes to play?

  3. Methusalem says:

    Bad news for Bernie?! Does it mean Mercedes could leave F1? Tough time coming to F1.

    1. Andy says:

      I don’t the board at Mercedes is particularly happy with their F1 results so far and could use this as an excuse to pull out. I think Mercedes thought they would have a relatively easier route to success by buying Brawn, with them just having won the World Championship.
      Irrespective of the outcome of this court case, I think Mercedes participation in F1 as a team will be short lived. With the exception of Ferrari, car manufacturers come and go, it’s short term advertising, particulary if you don’t get major success.
      I expect Mercedes to return to the WEC.

      1. Kay says:

        Agree.

        For manufacturers like Merc, BMW, Toyota, Honda, etc… their focus are on making and selling cars.

        Ferrari’s priority, due to the late Enzo Ferrari, was to race. To him making and selling cars were only to help fund his racing team, so it’s the opposite on how Ferrari works, hence their presence from mid-20th Century till now.

        McLaren is becoming something of British Ferrari in this respect.

      2. hero_was_senna says:

        I agree with all your points Kay, except one.
        Mclaren do not make road cars to fund their F1 operation.
        The F1 back in the early 90′s was a business failure. They managed to sell 100 of those cars when originally they had planned a run of 350.

        I think the road car operation is Ron Dennis’s ego wanting to take on Ferrari.
        I would also imagine if Ron read your “British Mclaren” comment, he’d choke on his organic cornflakes!

        Ferrari have been in motorsport since 1947, winning in Endurance and F1, but before that E. Ferrari had links in the Grand Prix sphere dating back to the 1920′s with Alfa Romeo, the pre-war Ferrari of the day.
        I wonder how much Alfa’s business model guided Enzo to building road cars for racing funds.

  4. [MISTER] says:

    Wow!
    One question..who would now make business with Ecclestone? Anyone thinks that CVC might want to get rid of Bernie ahead of this floatation just to show they are not aproving corruption?

    1. Sebee says:

      Bernie was the victim of a shakedown!

      Don’t you forget it.

      1. Don says:

        A man with his intelligences and hunger for money would not be the victim of a shakedown as he puts it. If you live with-in the law why would you be afraid of someone reporting you to the tax officials? If you pay someone 44 million dollars to keep quite then you must have something to hide. Bernie is a rodent and deserves to go down.

      2. Richardd says:

        Couldn’t agree with you more…

      3. Sebee says:

        Why are you so mean toward the elders? Have you no respect?

        He’s just an innocent senior with an out of control scalextric hobby, who go shaken down by some young crook.

        Don’t you remember Few Good Man with Jack as Bernie? Let me remind you of a quote from the film.

        “I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who enjoys the F1 entertainment I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way”

  5. alexbookoo says:

    I think Ecclestone has put F1 in quite a precarious position on a number of fronts. Who knows where this story will go but it doesn’t look good for Ecclestone, and if he is investigated will there be consequences for CVC? It’s easy to see from World Rally how quickly things can change – the promoter suddenly went bust at the start of this season and now rallying is no longer on TV and is in disarray.

    And speaking of TV, Ecclestone has clearly decided to turn the funding model of F1 on its head, from sponsorship through free-to-air TV to subscriptions from pay TV, as seen in the Sky deal in the UK, now echoed in Italy, and his recent comments that he is prepared to ditch the BBC all together (what a surprise, we didn’t see that coming – http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2012/jun/07/bernie-ecclestone-formula-one-free-bbc ). Maybe financially that works, but the viewing figures in the UK show that Sky can only pull at best a quarter of the viewers that the BBC got, and sometimes much less than that. During a great season like this one interest can be sustained. But next time there’s a boring championship I think F1 could quickly look like a marginal, minority sport in the UK.

    Then there’s Ecclestone’s tendency to move races away from Europe to countries where governments will pay huge fees to host a grand prix, even if the local population is not that interested, or outright opposed (Bahrain). These countries’ rulers pay the fees because of the prestige of the sport. But if in Europe, which is still the foundation of Formula 1′s image, the move to pay-TV diminishes the reach and profile of the sport, that prestige will fade. F1 will no longer be such a global platform, and the corporates and money men will gradually stop thinking that a grand prix is the place to be. And with very weak domestic interest in many of these countries, why will governments want to continue to subsidise F1 once it no longer delivers for them?

    In many ways F1 looks very healthy right now with great racing and loads of money being generated for the people who own the rights. But I fear it could be like the banks and the global economy at the start of 2007, when hardly anyone realised just how easily – and how far – it could fall.

    1. James Clayton says:

      Interesting article. I especailly enjoyed this quote:

      *He said that “Sky have done a super job”, and added that the live rights slipped through the BBC’s grasp due to its complacency. “The Beeb were sure we wouldn’t be able to go anywhere else,” he said.*

      This is coming from the man who told us it was “The Beeb” who instigated the whole deal?

    2. JR says:

      Yes viewing figures for the BBC up to and including the Canadian GP are 37.16% down on 2011, and the combined BBC/Sky figures are 22.31% down.

    3. franed says:

      I wonder how long it will be before sky realise that they can’t afford or justify showing F1.
      The Sky viewing figures have been so low that they must be thinking about giving free ad spots away. Since it is free with the HD package there is no specific fee from showing F1 so it must be a total loss for Sky.

      1. hero_was_senna says:

        Your make fair points, but SKY isn’t in this for profits in the short term, this is a long term game against corporations like the BBC.

        Look at any website, they all have advertising links in them. Even youtube clips have more and more advertising linked to them.

        Facebook floated for squillions, but only afterwards investors asked where they would make money as facebook doesn’t carry advertising links…

        A man I consider genius, the late Bill Hicks had this to say about advertising and marketing.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gDW_Hj2K0wo

        Or,

        People are taking the p*** out of you everyday. They butt into your life, take a cheap shot at you and then disappear. They leer at you from tall buildings and make you feel small. They make flippant comments from buses that imply you’re not sexy enough and that all the fun is happening somewhere else. They are on TV making your girlfriend feel inadequate. They have access to the most sophisticated technology the world has ever seen and they bully you with it. They are The Advertisers and they are laughing at you.

        You, however, are forbidden to touch them. Trademarks, intellectual property rights and copyright law mean advertisers can say what they like wherever they like with total impunity.

        [mod] Any advert in a public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours. It’s yours to take, re-arrange and re-use. You can do whatever you like with it. Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head.

        You owe the companies nothing. Less than nothing, you especially don’t owe them any courtesy. They owe you. They have re-arranged the world to put themselves in front of you. They never asked for your permission, don’t even start asking for theirs.

        – Banksy

        I’m a cynical 43 year old, fed up of watching re-runs of any BBC show on any number of these free channels with adverts included. Top Gear on Dave, any old comedy like Only Fools and Horses etc etc.

        When I look to buy a TV, a mobile phone, a car, a watch… whatever, I buy the relevant magazines, read the reviews in them or on the net and make a decision.
        I commented recently on this forum about having gone to see Prometheus, show started at 8.10, yet the film started at 8.38.
        With 5 film trailers of around 2minutes a piece, that leaves 18 minutes of adverts, which I had paid money inadvertantly to watch.

    4. CTP says:

      very well-rounded commentary.

  6. amontillado says:

    strange that a german judge should pass judgement, that seems to be what he’s done, on Bernie, before he has been charged and prosecuted, never mind found guilty.

    There is an big firm of lawyers salivating now at the prospect of years of expensive litigation

    1. Steve Rogers says:

      Well, it’s hard to convict Gerhard of accepting a bribe from Bernie without implicating Bernie in bribing Gerhard, isn’t it? Or do you have a magic legal formula that can achieve this seemingly impossible feat? And I love Bernie’s defence – “It wasn’t a bribe, it was a blackmail payment”. What a world he lives in.

      1. Dave says:

        Whats Bernie supposed to have bribed him for $44millions a lot of money to pay to get him to sell to the highes bidder which he was legally oblged to do anyway, and the money paid to Bernie by the bank was approved by the bank board and vetted by Delliots, as an indemnity for CVC against F1 breaking away.

      2. Steve Rogers says:

        Well, maybe it *was* a blackmail payment. And people don’t usually pay up unless they have a lot more to hide than the amount of the payment, ne?

      3. JamesR says:

        You ask what was in it for Bernie?

        Well CVC were aware of the value and had a a price in mind, so wouldn’t they incentivise Ecclestone?

        While we have no idea what incentives CVC offered Ecclestone by way of off the book shareholding ‘to facility the right deal’ and CVC aren’t renown for disclosing their financial details, yet is it credible Ecclestone would do this for nothing?

        Now few thought the German Prosecutor’s could trace the source of the illicit payments to Gribkowsky but they did and they’ll unfailingly find any evidence of how Ecclestone benefited, by simply ‘following the money’.

        Always thought the key to putting Ecclestone away for a long time would be his shares or payments from CVC.

  7. Sebee says:

    44m for 8 years – 5m per year after legal fees. Served in some white collar jail, out early for good behavior. How many would take that deal?

    1. James Allen says:

      Not sure – but he doesn’t get to keep the money!

      1. so who gets the money ? bernie ?

        Matt

      2. Sebee says:

        The court recovered the money? From a banker!?
        I can’t believe this guy is that dumb. I didn’t read anywhere that the court got the 44m back.

      3. Alam Z says:

        Even two bit criminals hide their money and reclaim it after the jail term.

        This guy will be ok. 4 years and he’ll be out to count his millions.

      4. JamesR says:

        They got everything, money, block of flats, wine collection and even his 6-milliom euro home. He’ll have zilch.

        Amazing the guy was apparently a highly respected pillar of the community till he came into contact with [mod] Ecclestone.

        The Judge commended Gribkowsky for ‘manning up’ as he faced 8-years in jail when he said “Ecclestone bribed me but it was my decision to accept it and my responsibility”.

        Salutary lesson.

      5. Sebee says:

        Well, confiscating his assets was a given. But did they account for 44 million of assets? He doesn’t have a few hundred kilo of gold by some tree in a forest? I can’t believe he left all 44m on the grid.

        JamesR,
        Where did you see the report, and how much cash did they get back?

      6. JamesR says:

        It was some online German publication on a Google.de serch for ‘Gribkowsky’ and translate, they always seem to be more on the ball then UK reporting.

        But strictly speaking they haven’t as yet got anything back but they have frozen every asset the poor guy had including his cash and any investments.

        I say ‘poor guy’ because without crossing path’s with Ecclestone he’d still be earning 200,000 euro’s/year I think it was and enjoying life.

  8. Tornillo Amarillo says:

    Oh! Bernie… It is like sparkling money!

    Oh Mercedes!, 2nd time on talks about withdrawing the team from F1 from different reasons, are they looking for a pretext?

    McLaren should sign Rosberg, just in case (Hamilton walks away).

  9. Lynn says:

    If Mercedes withdraw then Shumy will retire & Rosberg can head to Ferrari…

    1. Peter C says:

      It’s going to be really crowded at Ferrari:

      Hamilton is going there.
      Vettel is going there.
      Webber is going there.
      Rosberg is going there.
      DiResta might.
      Kovalainen should.
      Then theres always Kimi.

      And then I woke up.

      1. Mitchel says:

        he he, you forgot perez!

      2. Sebee says:

        May as well just have 24 Ferrari’s in the field. Can still call it F1.

      3. Kay says:

        Lol.

        Yer, afterall Ferrari gets special treatment and seat on F1 due to their historical status.

  10. Walt says:

    Ecclestone [mod] deserves full credit for turning F1 into the financial success it is today and has made many a rich man in the process who willingly followed along.And when F1 is finally floated in Singapore he will take his largest share and fade off into the sunset.Not many are willing to challenge this man and the reason why is there are few people more intelligent or adept at this game than B.E. I stand in awe of what he has accomplished but disillusioned by some of the methods employed that have hurt or destroyed those that proved expendable.

    1. milkboy says:

      I used to feel the same. Bernie made F1 what it is today, but now he is just dragging it into the gutter. I can’t think of anything he has done in the last decade or so that was in the interest of the sport rather than in the interest of his and his partner’s pocket. I now truly believe Bernie does not give a toss about what happens to F1 once he is gone. He is just trying to squeeze every last dollar out of it while he can.

      1. Valois says:

        And he must be, like, 115. How long does he think he will still live to spend so much money? Or is he just tucking it under his bed for softness?

    2. S2K says:

      I don’t think Ecclestone will retire with the cash… He is so committed that he will even close deals in his coffin at his own funeral.

      1. franed says:

        Never under estimate Bernie. Always watch both his hands. He doesn’t just think outside the box, he bought the box and leased out the box rights, meanwhile he has another dozen boxes.

        I suspect that If he is prosecuted he will do a deal with both the Germans and HMRC and retire.
        However that is not certain, he may well sue Gribkowski for defamation and the German courts for saying he is guilty without trial. Then he will claim it impossible to have a fair trial in Germany. Do not let the apparent facts influence your opinion where Bernie is concerned, they were just one of many starting points.

      2. JamesR says:

        If Bernie starts suing for defamation he’ll be as old as Methuselah before he finishes and still never have won a case

    3. Kevin says:

      Yes, but if your going to swim with sharks expect to get bitten. Doing business deals across borders is drought with problems. For instance many of the associations between individuals and organizations would be illegal here in Austalia under conflict of intrest primarilly. BE has done a masterful job over many years but maybe he has reached his point of diminishing returns.

    4. coronwen says:

      Maybe you’re right with: “Ecclestone deserves full credit for turning F1 into the financial success it is today”. But perhaps an addenda the like of “Ecclestone deserves full credit for removing all non financially viable sporting aspects from F1″ should’ve been added. There again, he was only following on (with the help of Max Mosley) from the tutor who was Jean-Marie Balestre. I’m looking forward to the James Hunt/Nikki Lauda film. F1 as a sport back then!

      1. Walt says:

        Totally agree coronwen. Sadly that list would be far too lengthy to post here lol.

  11. thomas says:

    “runs against the company’s statutes relating to involvement with corruption”

    Hypocrites!!

    Paying $185m to avoid indictment does not make you squeaky clean. They all swim in the same pond.

  12. Matt W says:

    I don’t believe a word Bernie says anymore. The latest talk from him about a London GP is just more of his nonsense. The sooner he goes and F1 undergoes the painful process of actually tightening up as a sport rather than a political exercise the better.

    [mod]

  13. S2K says:

    From what I understand there is a lot of pressure in Germany around Mercedes from the employees, shareholders and the unions because Merc is struggling big time financially but on the other side it is wasting millions in F1. In other words, the employees work and are paid reduced hours and Merc is wasting the cash in F1. So, after the anger caused by the fact that only Ferrari will receive shares in FOM, now Merc is looking for another reason to pull out. I do not believe Merc is so ethical as they now present themselves. At the end of the day they are part of the corporate world and nobody is ethical there.

  14. Quercus says:

    There are parallels here with the banking fiasco that’s just starting to be uncovered. When you have access to that much money it corrupts people’s morality. I suspect Bernie Ecclestone is as tainted by it as the Fred Goodwins and Bob Diamonds of this world.

    1. Ade says:

      Maybe you need to read Tom Bower’s book ‘No Angel’, the biography of Ecclestone. The name Goodwin comes up in that. He and Bernie apparently knew each other and he had RBS put up a lot of money to assist in one of the various buyouts or sell off’s of F1′s many incarnations and businesses that Bernie concocted in recent years.
      Its a good read, but leaves you struggling to keep up in the end as it looked like Bernie sold the business of F1 several times over yet still managed to stay in charge and keep taking a huge pay check. He’s a clever man, but clearly amoral when it comes to money and how to earn it.

      1. jkn says:

        a rival site mentioned the book is riddled with inaccuracies or even fantasies.

        it’s not “difficult” to sell the company a few times and keeping control of it, if you set up the company “correctly” so people don’t end up with controlling shares

        as for goodwin. you’ll be better off looking at his other chum jackie steward. you know.. the guy who got paid by rbs?

  15. Rob Newman says:

    The Mercedes story is worrying. Will they ‘do a Honda’ and pull out end of this year? That would not be good for the sport.

    In the meantime they are announcing a London GP. Is it to distract the scandal issue or for real?

    1. Dave says:

      Well Ross can buy it back for £1, run it for a year and then sell it again for a huge profit?

      1. mel_drew says:

        In this day and age? I think not.

      2. Hendo says:

        Ross Brawn can keep his quid – I’m offering $2 Aussie dollars for Merc Gp ..
        HendoF1 – I like the sound of that!

  16. seifenkistler says:

    Several big companies have a passus dealing with doping, bribery or other crimes fir their sport sponsoring. In some cases it is not just a can do but a must to do a redraw. Shareholders of the main part are not always happy with wasting money to sports and forced their sport sparts to sign only contracts with such a redraw passus.

    If the list of companies is true which i saw then it are 10+ big sponsors to formula1, not just mercedes.

  17. tim says:

    Morality gets the last laugh on F1. Love it.

  18. Methusalem says:

    I sometimes feel sorry for Bernie — at times, watching him wandering alone around the noisy pit lane breaks my heart. He has succeeded in realizing most of his dreams, why retire now in peace and have a wonderful, enjoyable life with his family?

    1. Sebee says:

      This is a man who will live longer because he works. He knows this fact well. I fully expect him to outlive most of the drivers on the grid. :-)

      1. Methusalem says:

        May be you’re right, may be not, but one thing is certain, the court process will affect his health.

  19. Clive says:

    James – I don’t understand why Bernie hasn’t been indicted already? Surely if Gribkowsky has been convicted of receiving bribes then Bernie is automatically guilty of giving them otherwise the neither case holds up legally? It seems strange that these two were not charged at the same time as part of the same case.

    I don’t doubt Bernie’s ability to wheedle out of this somehow but the legalities of the situation are far from clear. The whole blackmail line is a complete joke and very weak from Bernie in my view. I guess we’ll have to see what the prosecutors do next.

  20. Elie says:

    There is obviously a lot more to this story than has been played out in the public arena as Gribkowskys charging would surely have led an indictment to Bernie by now. Not saying that Bernie can’t wiggle his way out of the core of the earth but maybe his legal people are doing well to buy him time. There is surely much more to come to CVC and Bernie once the German courts delve further into the facts of this case.

    Either way I don’t think F1 can continue in the long term with this kind of leadership as this will effect Bernie’s negotiating power with key stakeholders going forward. This will only set F1 back many years which won’t worry Bernie as he would have packed his gold and ran.

    I think it’s time that the rights holders give some more ownership back to the teams , including Mercedes Benz it would be a terrible thing right now to loose them ( and other manufacturers) from the sport as they understand it’s continuity has to be managed economically, transparently and collaboratively as existing relationships between the teams reflect. I think the reputation of F1 and it’s current management is destroying its position and globally this must start a new phase very quickly.

  21. DanWilliams from Aust says:

    Can someone please explain to me why CVC wants to float F1 on the ‘Singapore’ stock exchange? Ass opposed to any other stock exchange around the world i.e. London, US, etc?

    Thanks.

    1. JamesR says:

      For the same reasons Williams F1 floated in Frankfurt Germany I suppose.

      There are fewer conditions imposed on the company to disclose as much about their financially or commercially sensitive information such as income sources and leverage.

      Not that it’ll be going ahead while CVC and Bernie are likley to be embroiled in the German bribery case.

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