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Bernie to step down as director

Ecclestone

Berlin: Bernie Ecclestone is to step down as a director of Formula One’s holding company until court proceedings against the billionaire businessman are concluded.

Ecclestone is due to go on trial in Munich in April following allegations he bribed German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky during negotiations relating to the sale of the sport in 2006.

The 83-year-old denies the allegations and intends to continue to run F1 on “a day-to-day basis”.

A statement from the holding company of the Formula One Group read: “The board of Delta Topco Limited has met today to discuss the decision of the Munich Court to commence proceedings against Ecclestone.

“Ecclestone has reassured the board that he is innocent of the charges and intends to vigorously defend the case which will commence in late April 2014.

“After discussion with the board, Ecclestone has proposed and the board has agreed that until the case has been concluded, he will step down as a director with immediate effect, thereby relinquishing his board duties and responsibilities until the case has been resolved.

“The board believes that it is in the best interests of both the F1 business and the sport that Ecclestone should continue to run the business on a day-to-day basis, but subject to increased monitoring and control by the board. Ecclestone has agreed to these arrangements.

“The approval and signing of significant contracts and other material business arrangements shall now be the responsibility of the chairman, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, and deputy chairman, Donald Mackenzie.”

The Munich state court said that it decided to send Ecclestone to trial following his indictment last May.

Dates for the trial haven’t yet been set but proceedings are currently expected to start at the end of April, a court statement said.

Sentences in Germany for bribery range from three months to 10 years in prison.

Ecclestone’s German lawyers, Sven Thomas and Norbert Scharf, said in a statement that “the alleged bribery did not happen.”

“The accusations in the indictment based on Gribkowsky’s statement are unfounded and do not... add up to a coherent picture,” they added.

Gribkowsky was convicted in 2012 of taking the payment from Ecclestone in connection with the sale of a stake in F1. He was found guilty of corruption, tax evasion and breach of trust, and sentenced to eight-and-a-half years in prison.

Ecclestone has insisted that he did “nothing illegal.” He acknowledged during Gribkowsky’s trial that he made the payment but said he was pressured to do so.

Gribkowsky was in charge of selling German bank BayernLB’s 47 per cent stake in F1 to investment group CVC Capital Partners in 2006.

In addition to taking the money from Ecclestone, Gribkowsky used BayernLB’s funds to pay the F1 boss a commission of $41.4 million and agreed to pay a further $25 million to Bambino Trust, a company with which Ecclestone was affiliated, prosecutors said during the Gribkowsky trial.

In separate legal proceedings in London, German media company Constantin Medien, a former F1 shareholder, is suing Ecclestone and other defendants for up to $144 million, claiming F1 was undervalued by the BayernLB deal.

Ecclestone said in November at the High Court in London that he made a payment to avoid being reported by Gribkowsky to authorities over his tax affairs.