Who'll be on top in Canada?
Montreal 2018
Canadian Grand Prix
Bernie Ecclestone relinquishes F1 powers as German court decides to prosecute
Posted By: James Allen  |  16 Jan 2014   |  4:30 pm GMT  |  82 comments

Formula 1 was thrown into turmoil today as the prosecutors in Munich announced that they intend to bring Formula 1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone to trial on bribery charges this Spring. The move has meant that while he still has an executive role, his powers have been curbed.

At a meeting of the F1 board, following the Munich announcement, Ecclestone stood down as a director. But the board decided to keep him in his position of CEO, running the day to day business of the sport, albeit with two significant restrictions.

His activities will be closely monitored and subject to scrutiny and he will not be able to sign off on significant contracts. That will be the job of chairman Peter Brabeck-Lemathe and of Donald Mackenzie, boss of F1’s leading shareholder CVC Capital Partners.

This is unchartered territory for Ecclestone, who is used to acting on his own and has not had to operate like this before.

So what does this all mean for F1?

Ecclestone has hitherto run the business and had absolute control over the deals that get done, albeit answerable to the board. But he has very much been in control of all aspects of the business. While he does have people on his team who can negotiate TV and media rights deals, such as Ian Holmes and sponsorship deals, like Alex Wooff, he doesn’t have anyone beneath him who can do the big deals with governments on signing up new Grands Prix.

He is also the only one who can really join the business up and for these reasons it was important for lead shareholder CVC and the F1 board to keep him in his day to day post.

The trial is likely to be heard in April/May, according to the Munich prosecutor and this will clearly be a major distraction for the 83 year old. The man he is accused of bribing, former Bayern LB banking official Gerhard Gribkowsky, is serving an eight and half year sentence for corruption. The matter relates to the 2005 sale of a 47% stake in F1 to CVC.

Meanwhile Justice Newey is due to deliver his verdict soon in the 2013 civil case brought against Ecclestone in London by Constantin Medien, which alleges that the $44 million Ecclestone (and his family trust Bambino) paid to Gribkowsky relating to the 2006 sale of F1 to CVC, was intended to lower the value of the business, from which they lost out.

Ecclestone has recently arranged bilateral deals to 2020 with the teams and with the FIA, but there is still no Concorde Agreement tying all the stakeholders into a single agreement. That is an example of something that will need to be approved by the F1 board on which Ecclestone no longer sits. It could be argued that it is not in his interests to see a Concorde Agreement being signed.

Without a Concorde Agreement CVC will not be able to float the F1 business on the Singapore Stock Exchange, as it has long planned to do. So who is going to lead the process towards a Concorde Agreement?

Perhaps more interestingly, the teams will now sense a once in a lifetime opportunity. Logic suggests they should use an occasion like this to come together and take a strong position, which gives them more of a say (and maybe a stake) in the future of the sport.

However, although there are signs that they want to come together, there is also concern that the strongest teams, Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull will not be able to resist making a land-grab of the sport for themselves, leaving the others behind in secondary roles.

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo had called a meeting of all teams in Maranello for the start of 2014, but that is not now taking place.

Instead – perhaps in a move intended to head off the team’s getting themselves united – Ecclestone and FIA president Jean Todt have called a meeting with the teams next Wednesday in Geneva. Cost control is on the agenda, as is the controversial double points rule, but clearly there will be an elephant in the room now as well and it will be interesting to see what comes from it. Sources suggest that the double points rule might survive the likely turmoil on a “trial basis” for 2014.

Meanwhile the seven teams still supporting the F1 Teams Association (all except Ferrari, Sauber, Red Bull and Toro Rosso) plan a meeting in early February to decide on their own next move as a body.

Although he is believed to have spent over £10 million already on legal fees, there are seasoned observers who wonder to what extent Ecclestone is concerned over the latest developments. He is 83 years old and a multi billionaire, he still gets to run the business and what does he really have to fear from the German courts? Even if convicted, would he really be jailed?

Responding to the announcement from Munich today, Ecclestone’s lawyers said, “The accusations, which are based on statements by Mr Gribkowsky, are false and in view of the established facts don’t present a convincing picture,”

Ecclestone has so far given evidence in Gribkowsky’s 2012 trial and in the Constantin Medien case. He denies bribery and maintains that the money was paid in a “shakedown”, because Gribkowsky threatened to expose details about his family trust and tax arrangements.

Featured News
Editor's Picks
Share This:
Posted by:

Add comment

E-mail is already registered on the site. Please use the Login form or enter another.

You entered an incorrect username or password

Sorry that something went wrong, repeat again!
Death & Taxes are a certainy

There’s no dispute F1 is what it is today because of Bernie, and he has filled his pockets thru it as we all would! But there is something that smells bad in all this, why would he pay a man to keep quiet about the leadership of Bambino Trust or for that matter why isn’t the British Tax Office looking at this or is Bernie so privileged that he is untouchable , as for his age too bad if you are guilt you do the time, but as we all know rich aged people seem to always get away with it don’t they!


I feel like many others that Bernie has had too much control of F1, and its now time to move over


Thank you Damon Hill for concisely putting into word what I think many of us feel lately. This is exactly what is happening.

“It’s definitely a cloud hanging over Formula One.”


Isn’t this bribery case only the first step?

The main question will be if he knew that he bribed a person working for a state owned bank.

The next step is the calculated 400million loss of the state owned bank which they want to have back. Trial will be in London after the Munich one? So it will be a busy year at court.

Another question:

The Nürburgring was financed with tax money and Ecclestone wants to buy it after robbing already 400millions from the tax payers. I can already see the headlines if this happens.


I can see a positive side to BE leaving the sport, sooner or later. Hopefully, the current model of the sport being a milk cow will not be sustainable after BE, and the equilibrium will not last for long. Nobody knows how, but the outside stakeholders like CVC will be bought out and the teams themselves will become bigger beficiaries of the profits generated. A private interest will have to remain in one way or another in order to assure efficient management, but certainly not to the extent of 50 pct of net going into the pockets of venture capitalists.


My money says he walks free & gets the seat back. Fair dinkum, this bloke could get away with murder.

But really, it is time that F1 moved into this century & becomes more transparent. . I do like the idea of a float though.


This is the best news in F1 for quite some time. It marks the start of the end of this dictators hold on the sport & on the back of the rotten news that Pirelli signing an exclusive extension till 2016.


2014 is turning out to be interesting….

Here are two related articles on the matter

1. Mercedes could pull out of F1 is Bernie is convicted


2. Ironically – Damlier (owners of Mercedes) caught in their own bribery case


Go figure


James, what limited financial details about the F1 structure that have emerged over the years suggest that titles rarely mean anything (unlike at public companies). Mr E is the master of retaining control rather than economic percentages or fancy business cards. After all, he remains a major shareholder (depending on whether you believe he acts on behalf of Slavica and his daughters). Therefore he may still retain a veto over any decisions made by the group and its owners.


I am sure with a bottomless pit of money for legal fees, even if convicted, with appeals etc , and Bernie being already in his eighties, I’m sure he isnt that bothered by the time its all finished, he may not outlive the outcome. However it will now surely accelerate the process of what happens after Bernie, and how the sport will be run in the future.


I still think of Andy Warhol and Gollum when I see Bernie. And I’m still convinced that he licks his eyeballs to keep them moist. And eats babies.

The teams should seize this opportunity.

And I don’t think he’d last too long in prison.

Can we just get on with the racing? I can’t wait to see what the new cars look like!


No more sprinklers?


Good job the trial is in Germany mid-season. If it was in Abu Dhabi at the end, any sentence might be doubly long!


Bernie has seen this coming for some time know and it is inconceivable that he hasen’t put plans in place to retain effective control.

83 but still very shrewd


“Meanwhile Justice Newey is due to deliver his verdict soon in the 2013 civil case…”

Justice Newey!!!

How ironic…


I hear he’s good friends with Judge Pirelli.


I think that Bernie will run the show even if he is in prison.


…and that’s how F1 became Deathrace kids 🙂


I have no respect for the man. Just an extremely greedy person that epitomises all that is wrong with the me, me, attitude of the modern world.


Spot on.

What’s needed is a billionaire who has the same passion for Formula 1 as most fans do. Someone who will buy the whole sport outright and donate the rights to the FIA under the strict conditions that Formula 1 be run as an economically sustainable, non profit organization. It would exist solely for the enjoyment of teams, drivers and fans who love the racing of cars. It is only necessary to make enough money to keep the whole competition running from season to season. Costs of enjoying the sport should be as low as economic sustainability permits.


Wouldn’t that be nice 🙂


It is only the 16th day of a Year, but we already had more events than during a whole last Year!

I am a bit exaggerating, but 2014 is already turning out to be the most unusual year in all aspects. And it has nothing to do with regulation changes.


It is only the 1th day of a Year, but we already had more event than during a whole last Year!

I am a bit exaggerating, but 2014 is already turning out to be the most unusual year in all aspects. And it has nothing to do with regulation changes.


The Indispensable Man

(by Saxon White Kessinger)

Sometime when you’re feeling important;

Sometime when your ego ‘s in bloom;

Sometime when you take it for granted,

You’re the best qualified in the room:

Sometime when you feel that your going,

Would leave an unfillable hole,

Just follow these simple instructions,

And see how they humble your soul.

Take a bucket and fill it with water,

Put your hand in it up to the wrist,

Pull it out and the hole that’s remaining,

Is a measure of how much you’ll be missed.

You can splash all you wish when you enter,

You may stir up the water galore,

But stop, and you’ll find that in no time,

It looks quite the same as before.

The moral of this quaint example,

Is to do just the best that you can,

Be proud of yourself but remember,

There’s no indispensable man.


I disagree.

Honestly Bernie’s skin is so dessicated by now that if he stuck his hand in a bucket of water he’d probably just suck it up like a straw and so it would end up looking different.


I for one hope the full force of the law is applied without favor of any kind and ‘if’ he’s found to be guilty the full force of the law is applied regards punishment.

I suggest that ‘should’ he be found guilty then all sorts of stories will follow as journalists are set free to report what they ‘might’ know.


Please let this be the beginning of the end for Eccleston. Yes, he may have negotiated billions of dollars worth of tv contracts but who actually gets to benefit from that income? Just the privileged few at the top, certainly not the fans who (in the UK at least) have to pay through the nose to get anywhere near a Grand Prix. And meanwhile, even the drivers have been brainwashed into constantly talking about the “show”. If I’m watching F1 I want to see a motor race. If I want to watch a show, I’ll go to the pantomime, which is ironic as that is what F1 seems to have become with the comedy DRS and now the frankly ludicrous double points idea. Like so many other “sports” F1 is just another money making operation for the likes of Eccleston and Sky.


But what does this mean for the DOUBLE POINTS?

I’m trying to smile…

Any more bad news this off season?


With all the crap that’s happened this month, you’re concerned about the double points rule? It’ll probably benefit Vettel anyway so what are you worried about.


so if the drivers need to tie up the championship by 50 points before the last race, wouldn’t this encourage a clear number 1 driver out of the pair in each team from the beginning of the season? if they don’t, the drivers championship can easily be lost due to teams allowed ‘fair play’ during the season. Its too risky for them to not employ number 1 drivers.

If clear number one drivers “were” implemented at the beginning of the season, then the drivers championship will no longer hold the weight it once did.

James, have there been any talks about this in the F1 circles your privy to?


They are digesting all the implications
But it’s not clear yet whether it is definitely on or not



If this double points thing stays on for 2014, I already told you guys that Vettel will make it right by wrapping the WDC well before Brazil with a 50 point advantage.

What will happen then is he will also win the last race, and grow his huge advantage, and then when he wins the WDC by 100 points the powers that be will say, OK, we didn’t consider how bad that will make the rest of the field look.

So yes, I agree that it will benefit Vettel, but I also think he’ll make it right by having the rule not impact the actual result of the WDC through complete total domination in 2014. You heard it here first. Random agrees too. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.


Random tentatively agrees…I still rather see a close fight 🙂


There’s been plenty of bad news in the last month or so.

As for the double points we might just have to suck it up and hope that be the end of the year they’ll be inconsequential anyway.


So your hoping that that the championship is decided before the last round?

Leader will need to be leading by 50 or more points!

Many people have been bemoaning this situation for last few years, which probably lead to this rule.

I’m not a supporter of the rule, but just surprised conversations haven’t explored this yet.


No, at the end of the day I’m hoping that it’s a close fight to last race and the winner takes it on merit like any other year, not just because of a quick-fix gimmick.

There have been plenty of scenarios envisioned by the fans, but I think ultimately what everyone wants (or at least the vast majority) is consistency through the year – not just with the points, but also with the tyres and rules.

If there’s an urgent problem then fine, fix it, otherwise just leave it until the end of the season so we can have a proper championship without so many question marks over who would have won.


What you need to explore as well is that Vettel has a 62 point lead heading into the last race, and then he adds another 50 to that.

How demoralizing will that be if it happens?


Maybe if we scream and shout loud enough, this ridiculous double points idea can be axed before it gains any more traction.

I haven’t heard anybody agree that it’s a good idea.

The ire of the F1 world and it’s fans should be channeled/funneled towards one single source.

But who?

What if F1.com or JAonF1.com ran a one vote only poll to see how popular this idea really is?

If it’s overwhelmingly unpopular it should be a no-brainer to scrap it.


referring to Mike’s comments, is that why the points system changed from 10 points for a win to 25??? Very crafty move on FIAs side of the fence


Double points will stay. Think about it!

The FIA receive entry fees from teams based on points scored the previous season so it’s an increase in revenue for the FIA – they won’t give that up without a fight.


I’ve read literally three comments out of hundreds that support it, so it should already be obvious to everyone inside of the sport that we want it scrapped.

JA could run a vote I suppose – if nothing else it would back up the comments people have made – but F1.com? Forget it. As much as I visit it for information sometimes (much less often now) it’s far too impersonal and it’s run by FOM anyway.


Trouble is, if they’re inconsequential anyway then they’ll probably be here to say.

The only way I see them being dropped is if Vettel wins the Championship at the last race in a situation he wouldn’t normally have done under the normal system (like he’s 30 points behind Alonso/Hamilton/Maldonado/Chilton/Badoer/Whoever at the beginning of the last race and goes on to clinch enough points to overhaul it)

Regardless of what happens, *if* the outcome of the Championship is affected, the FIA can’t win… If Vettel gets beaten at the last race due to the ruling, it will be a backlash of “this was only put in place to stop Red Bull winning”. If Vettel wins again because of the ruling it will be a case of “this was only put in place to make sure Vettel wins again”.


Wait a minute…Badoer? When did he enter the equation lol?


You’re absolutely right, but the problem is that if that happens it means that the championship has already been corrupted.


I have to call BS on the statement “he doesn’t have anyone beneath him who can do the big deals with governments on signing up new Grands Prix.”

You really believe that an 83 year old does the entire deal himself? Really? No lawyers to draft contracts, no staff to do the preparations? Sorry the idea of Bernie sitting and typing out the documents and drafting this all up on his own is frankly ridiculous.

Does Bernie have the contacts in government, sure, does he do it with no staff involved? NO! Could the staff figure out what to do without him to do another deal? Sure they can! Will they be as good a negotiator? Maybe! Maybe not.

Don’t drink the Bernie cool aid on this one! The world without Bernie will be different, but not the end of the world. Frankly some of the race tracks may do better with a little more revenue.

So lets drop the hyperbole and get down to reality. Like what happens if CVC ownership is contested or Mercedes leaves? There are some legal consequences here which are far more relevant than is Bernie superman and the world cant spin around anymore without him.


Well written Adam, couldn’t have said it better myself…. totally agree with every word


+2 then, I guess.

Mad respect to Bernie for what he’s achieved in pursuit of his own interests – which occasionally aligned w/ what was good for the sport in the mid-term.

The problem is there has been very little long-term alignment amongst all the sport’s stakeholders…


Of course he has all those people. But if you speak to the people on the other side of the table – which I have – then you hear that Bernie fronts it all up. Lawyers just do the details once the negotiations have happened.


Bernie, a top notch wheeler and dealer but certainly he’s not Alan Greenspan the ex US

Federal Reserve Chairman.

Every successeful Man/woman knows when to call the day,it seems Bernie is just a greedy man

and he should walk for a good of F1.


Alan Greenspan, “the oracle” was irreplaceable – until he was replaced

With hindsight, the “oracle” looked rather short-sighted. Once Ecclestone is replaced, I assume that people will find that he, too, was replaceable – and then we’ll see how each of his strategic decisions will be judged with the benefit of hindsight.


But Bernie is not the only tough negotiator in the world who can front for the FOM team behind him. Plenty of others out there in and out of F1.

So what about the more immediate concerns of Mercedes getting out or CVC getting into hot water on ownership issues of F1 or the FIA snatching the commercial rights back under a disrepute clause?? Bernie is a side show, F1 is in the big tent!


Ignoring the fact that once your gone you’ll be forgotton within a month….no exceptions. But should you find yourself in total control of any organisation capable of being micro-managed and you tell people often enough that you’re indispensable, two things will happen within that environment.

One is that some will foolishly believe anything you say, swallowing it hook line and sinker.

The second is, the remainder who are dependent on your largess won’t wish to rock the boat or jeopardise their position…and will subscribe (at least in public) to the same mantra.

Of course like the ‘Emperor’s new clothes’ everyone’s afraid to be the first to say and we the fans are left sailing blissfully into the abyss.

Thankfully this debacle is nearing the end game…. and Mr Gribkowsky will have a cellmate.


Preparing a contract is one thing, but negotiating one is entirely different. It is the latter that has turned used-car salesman Bernie in to multi-billionaire Bernie.


Agree. Preparing a contract is more or less administration. What Bernie’s been doing requires a totally different set of skills


Come one James,

Bernie didn’t relinquish anything of substance.

He’s still running the day to day sport. Even under criminal indictment he continues to head a multi Billion dollar business.

How many western companies would allow their CEO to remain in place after a criminal indictment?

This is shameful. His board resignation is a PR move, full stop.


Perhaps a company who are unsure how to run things and don’t care about the long term future as long as it looks rosier so they can sell out for more cash.

Top Tags