Jan.10 (GMM/Inautonews.com) Formula one was in “a lot of trouble” some years ago before the commercial rights were bought by CVC.

That is the claim of Donald Mackenzie, who on Monday testified in Munich during the corruption trial of former F1 banker Gerhard Gribkowsky.

Gribkowsky, formerly in charge of bank Bayern LB’s F1 shareholding, is accused of accepting huge bribes from F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone.

Ecclestone claims Gribkowsky subtly shook him down over his personal tax affairs.

“Formula One was in a lot of trouble at the time, including the threat that the teams would leave it,” Mackenzie, CVC’s managing partner, testified.

“We were in fact the only one of a very small group of companies who could buy it so our offer must have been seen like a present from heaven,” he is quoted by the Bloomberg news agency.

The Financial Times quotes Mackenzie as saying F1 was a “very high risk investment” for CVC, one of the world’s top five private equity firms.

He said F1 teams were threatening to split with the official FIA series to set up their own championship.

“Because of that it was very important to have Mr Ecclestone on our side,” Mackenzie said.