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Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone has had a rough run of things over the past two years. It all started when it came to light that he was facing the threat of legal action over paying an alleged £27.5m bribe to Gerhard Gribkowsky, former chief risk officer of German state-owned bank BayernLB, in return for him agreeing to sell its 47.2% stake in F1 to current owner CVC in 2006.
BayernLB sold its shares to CVC for £527.1m ($839m) and in July last year German media company Constantin sued Ecclestone in London's High Court claiming that it lost out on the deal. It was due to receive 10% of the proceeds if BayernLB's stake was sold for more than £628m ($1bn) and Constantin claims that other buyers would have paid more than CVC. BayernLB agrees and in October it wrote to Ecclestone demanding £218m in damages because it believes its F1 stake was worth more than CVC paid.
Three weeks later there was another lawsuit against Ecclestone which was exclusively revealed here on Pitpass by our business editor Christian Sylt. This time Ecclestone was sued in the New York Supreme Court by a US investment firm called Bluewaters which is demanding £409m because it claims to have offered more than CVC.
Now it has been revealed that someone else has threatened Ecclestone with legal action though this complaint has a very different background to the others.
The revelation appears in the prospectus for the stalled flotation of F1 on the Singapore stock exchange which was due to get off the grid in June. The volatile economic climate put the brakes on the flotation but all the preparation was in place including a 498 page prospectus which was produced in May. On page 318 it states:
"A former manager of a Formula 1 Team (in which the Group has no interest), who recently resigned from his employment, has claimed that his position within the Team had become untenable as a result of Mr Ecclestone's tortious interference and "abuse of a dominant position". He alleges that adverse opinions were expressed by Mr Ecclestone to the Team's board and in the media about the former Team manager's suitability in his role and that we would not make an offer to that Team to renew the Concorde Agreement while he remained in his position, and that as a result, he was forced to leave his employment, resulting in a loss of income and of his minority (1.5%) stake in the Team."
"He has also sought to link his resignation to an issue that he raised while in employment that had to do with cash payments made by the Monaco race promoter to the Teams. We enquired of each of our employees who had been involved in or had knowledge of these practices and we are satisfied that they did not involve any wrongdoing by the Company, nor were there any improper payments made or received by any Group companies, or any of our personnel."
"The former Team manager has not commenced legal proceedings as of the date of this document, and it is not clear if he intends to do so and if he did, against whom, but he claims to be preparing a claim against Mr Ecclestone. While we do not believe his claim has any merit, and his former employer has informed us that he resigned his position voluntarily and the matters that led to his voluntary resignation were not as the former Team manager has claimed and were not to do with us, Mr. Ecclestone, has engaged in a dialogue with him to resolve the matter. However, there can be no assurance as to the outcome of these discussions."
Whilst we wonder who on earth this could possibly refer to, we very much doubt that Ecclestone will be troubled. He is a master in the art of war and considering that he has managed to motor on in the face of the other legal threats this seems like light relief in comparison. No litigation against him by the former team manager has been unearthed in the media since the threat surfaced in the prospectus in May. Having said that, if the former team manager's threat of legal action didn't come to anything one wonders what his next steps might be.
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