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Ecclestone wins Constantin Medien case

NEWS STORY
20/02/2014

A High Court judge in London has ruled in favour of Bernie Ecclestone in the legal case involving Constantin Medien.

The German media group was demanding £85m ($140.4m) in damages claiming that Ecclestone conspired to undervalue F1 when selling the business because if it had not been sold to CVC a higher bidder would have bought it.

Constantin Medien had accused Ecclestone of entering into a "corrupt agreement" with German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky in order to facilitate the sale to CVC, its lawyers arguing that the sale had been agreed "without the normal and proper process" and for an undervalued price.

Ecclestone, who always insisted that the claim lacked "any merit", also maintained that payments made to Gribkowsky had nothing to do with the sale of F1 but were instead a bribe to prevent the German causing the 83-year-old problems with the tax authorities in the UK.

Mr Justice Newey, who had reserved judgement following the trial which ran from October to December, said he found it impossible to rely on Ecclestone as a "reliable" or "truthful" witness, but nonetheless said that Constantin's case failed because it had been "no part" of Mr Ecclestone's purpose for shares to be sold at an "undervalue".

"No loss to Constantin has been shown to have been caused by the corrupt arrangement with Dr Gribkowsky," he added. "That fact is fatal to the claim."

However, in a move that could yet be very damaging to Ecclestone, the Judge concluded: "The payments were a bribe. They were made because Mr Ecclestone had entered into a corrupt agreement with Dr Gribkowsky in May 2005 under which Dr Gribkowsky was to be rewarded for facilitating the sale of BLB's shares in the Formula One group to a buyer acceptable to Mr Ecclestone."

Ecclestone, who was not in court for the ruling, is still facing trial in Germany this year in the case of the alleged bribery of Gribkowsky, the Banker having been handed an 8-year prison sentence in 2012 for accepting a bribe.

Chris Balfe

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