Former Bayerische Landesbank Chief Risk Officer Gerhard Gribkowsky said he didn’t receive a summons in a New York lawsuit against Formula One Chief Executive Officer Bernie Ecclestone over sale of an F1 stake.
Gribkowsky, in a German prison for accepting bribes to facilitate the sale of the F1 racing stake to CVC Capital Partners Ltd., said he is bankrupt, can’t afford a lawyer, can’t get German legal aid in New York and has “no idea” of his rights in the state. In a letter from Munich’s Stadelheim Prison filed in state court in New York, he questioned whether the case is in the right place.
“I am under the impression that the action from the plaintiff is no part of the jurisdiction of Supreme Court of the state of New York,” he said.
Ecclestone and other defendants, accused by a rival bidder of paying a bribe to steer the F1 stake to CVC, have challenged the right of plaintiff Bluewaters to sue in New York over events in Europe by defendants without a New York connection.
Gribkowsky was sentenced to eight years and six months in prison for his role in the 2005 sale after confessing to accepting $44 million in bribes from Ecclestone. The lack of any connection between the defendants and New York partly explained why he hadn’t received the November summons, he said.
The lawsuit by Bluewaters Communications Holdings LLC seeks $650 million for the alleged diversion of the F1 stake. The financial firm, set up in New York shortly before the Ecclestone suit was filed last year, was willing to pay $1 billion for the stake at the time, it said in a Nov. 16 filing.
BayernLB acquired the F1 stake in 2002. Gribkowsky clashed with Ecclestone and sued him in London over corporate-governance rules changed to limit the lender’s influence. Ecclestone wanted to push BayernLB out and saw a chance when CVC showed interest, German prosecutors have said.
Ecclestone, 82, transformed London-based F1 in three decades into the world’s most popular auto-racing series, attracting an average of 50 million TV views on a Sunday.
Kent Yalowitz, a lawyer for Bluewaters at Arnold & Porter LLP, has said he is “confident” New York is the right place for the suit.
Ecclestone, a U.K. citizen, has said his payments, which moved from Swiss accounts to an Austrian account without assistance from New York banks as far as he knew, were unrelated to the sale to CVC. Rather, they were made to buy Gribkowsky’s silence after “insinuations” that he might tell U.K. tax authorities about certain activities of a family trust controlled by Ecclestone’s wife at the time, Ecclestone said in a filing.
The case is Bluewaters v. Ecclestone, 653965/2012, New York State Supreme Court, New York County (Manhattan).
To contact the reporter on this story: Linda Sandler in New York at email@example.com.