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I don't want Bernie to retire says Ecclestone's wife

NEWS STORY
06/06/2014

Bernie Ecclestone's wife has revealed that she hopes her husband won't give up Formula One's driving seat according to an article in the Independent by Christian Sylt.

"I don't want Bernie to retire. I want him to do whatever makes him happy," says Fabiana Flosi, a Brazilian lawyer who Ecclestone married in in 2012. She is Ecclestone's third wife and is 46 years younger than him.

Ecclestone says he is "not looking at retiring" but that decision could be taken out of his hands. He is currently on trial in Munich for allegedly paying a 26m bribe to former banker Gerhard Gribkowsky to steer the sale of a stake in F1 to his preferred buyer.

Gribkowsky worked for German bank BayernLB and it owned a 47.2% stake in F1 which was sold to private equity firm CVC for 494m in 2006. Prosecutors believe that CVC was Ecclestone's preferred buyer as it had agreed to retain him as F1's boss.

Ecclestone denies paying a bribe and, as Pitpass revealed back in 2011, he says that Gribkowsky threatened to make false allegations about him to the UK's tax authorities if the money was not paid.

If Ecclestone loses he faces a prison sentence which could leave F1 in limbo as he has no successor and says he isn't on the hunt for one.

"I think a successor is important but I've not been looking for someone. If I saw anybody I would ask them."

The trial in Munich is taking place for two days a week to allow Ecclestone to maintain his prodigious workload. He also revealed to the Independent that he offered to make a payment in a bid to avoid the hassle of the trial.

Prosecutors believe that Ecclestone funded the alleged bribe with a commission which he received from BayernLB for helping to put the deal through.

The commission came to 5% of the sale price giving Ecclestone 24.7m. The prosecutors believe that BayernLB lost out by making the payment as it was used to compensate a bribe.

According to the indictment against Ecclestone, in July 2012 his lawyers wrote to BayernLB to offer to pay the 24.7m back. It was rebuffed and in May 2013 Ecclestone was charged.

As Pitpass has revealed, Ecclestone says that the 24.7m payment was entirely legitimate as it was given in return for him providing a guarantee that F1 would not collapse. He adds "I don't know why I offered to pay back the commission. Early on we said [we will do it] if that is what is necessary to get this rubbish out of the way. I didn't say we would pay it back. I said we will pay some back. One of our lawyers spoke to them and they thought 5% was too much and it should have been 2.5%."

Ecclestone did not admit any guilt by making the offer and did not do this to absolve himself but to avoid the hassle of a trial which is now eating into his work schedule. The indictment states that "through the legal document dated 23 July 2012 it was communicated that the defence for the Accused - whilst maintaining its own point of view - had made an offer to BayernLB to pay back the amount received at the time as a commission including interest."

As the Independent points out, Ecclestone's business methods are decidedly old-school as he still uses fax and does million dollar deals on a handshake. He recently had a short-lived stint using an iPhone but has switched back to an old handset with speed dial numbers of friends and family taped to the back.

"The iPhone is gone. This one I resurrected but one day it's going to go. I know how to use this," he says. "I have a heart attack every time that falls in case he breaks it," adds Flosi. She is far more tech-savvy than her husband and he knows it. "If you want to know about Instagram ask Fabiana and she will tell you what is on it," he says before questioning the purpose of Twitter.

"What would that person sitting there use Twitter for? I could put anything on Twitter. If you want I can put the results of tonight's football match on Twitter." Flosi adds "a friend opened a Twitter account for me. I don't understand how to use it but you get to know lots of things with it. You get to know the results of the football. Even information about Formula One. Everything goes first on Twitter then everywhere else."

Despite being married to the boss of the sport, Flosi still follows F1 on Twitter. Old-school to the last, Ecclestone clearly doesn't take his business home.

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