According to German prosecutors, who made a startling revelation, Formula One’s chief executive Bernie Ecclestone was allegedly blackmailed by former banker Gerhard Gribkowsky.
This is a rather big surprise, since the same prosecutors actually indicted Ecclestone with charges that he was the one bribing Gribkowsky. As a bribery trial is starting in Munich, Germany, tomorrow, the billionaire auto racing chief could actually spend as much as 10 years behind bars if he is found guilty.
Ecclestone is turning 84 this year and while for the last 40 years – when he was the No.1 man in Formula 1 – he fended off attacks and scandals with automakers, media giants and politicians, he is now facing a very big battle.
Although advanced in age and facing the possibility of imprisonment, Ecclestone still has no heir – while still holding today the daily control of F1 and personally negotiating the most valuable deals.
F1’s parent company Delta Topco has annual revenue of around $1.6 billion, while its key trading subsidiary Delta 2 made last year a profit of $286 million. While in June 2012 a regional court in Munich ruled that a payment made to Gribkowsky – who was chief risk officer at one of the banks that had F1 shares – by Ecclestone was a bribe, it only sentenced the first to eight and a half years in prison.
Now, although the prosecutors are coming after Ecclestone, they also acknowledged that Gribkowsky actually tried and succeeded in blackmailing the F1 boss in relation to other suits his companies faced.