July 19 - Formula One Chief Executive Bernie Ecclestone has been charged with bribing a German banker to smooth the sale of a stake in the motor racing business to private equity firm CVC eight years ago. The 82 year old has denied any wrongdoing and vowed to clear his name. Hayley Platt reports.
He's credited with turning Formula One into a major global business. Now Bernie Ecclestone is fighting to clear his name after being charged with bribery and breach of trust. He's accused of paying German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky $44 million, to smooth the sale of a 48 per cent stake in Formula One to private equity firm CVC, eight years ago. Ecclestone denies any wrongdoing. He told a Munich court in November 2011 he paid the money to Gribkowsky to 'keep him quiet' - after he put him under pressure over his tax affairs. Industry expert Mark Gallagher. SOUNDBITE: Mark Gallagher, independent Formula One executive, saying (English): "It will certainly affect his presence in the media because of attention the case will attract. I don't think it will affect business investment in Formula One because frankly most of the investment is around the events and they're not going to be affected. What's more interesting at the moment is the degree of irritation this causes to Formula One being in the headlines for the wrong reasons." Reuters' Keith Weir says plans to float F1 will be affected. SOUNDBITE: Keith Weir, Reuters Sports Business Correspondent, saying (English): "The most tangible impact would be plans for a flotation on the stock market Singapore which the owners hoped to revive this year will probably be put on hold. It will probably mean it will be put on hold til 2014. The flotation of Formula One on the stock market in various forms has been talks about for many years but it's never quite come to pass." A former used-car salesman, 82-year old Ecclestone moved into team management after failing to make it as a driver in the 1950s. After years as Formula One's public face he's made it clear he doesn't want to retire. But the lack of an obvious successor is a concern for potential investors. SOUNDBITE: Keith Weir, Reuters Sports Business Correspondent, saying (English): "He can't go on forever running that business so there will have to be in the medium term some sort of succession plan and that is the question that this raises but if you're talking about Formula One as a business to invest in possibly floating it on the stock market, ultimately people will want to know what the future is for the management of the company." Eccelstone's defense team has until mid August to respond to the charges. A decision about whether a trial will proceed is not expected before September. For now the British billionaire who's rarely been out of the news since his career began is likely to continue making headlines, albeit for the wrong reasons.