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F-1’s Ecclestone Says Gribkowsky Confession Won’t Wreck IPO

Formula One Chief Executive Officer Bernie Ecclestone said he doesn’t expect to be charged in a bribery case involving a $44 million payment to a former banker, and the dispute won’t affect the sport’s planned initial public offering.

Former Bayerische Landesbank Chief Risk Officer Gerhard Gribkowsky yesterday confessed in a Munich court to charges he took bribes from Ecclestone during the 2005 sale of the lender’s stake in the series to CVC Capital Partners Ltd. Gribkowsky was also charged with breach of trust and tax evasion.

“I don’t know what they would charge me for,” Ecclestone said in a phone interview today. “It’s not the bribing, it’s the duty to the bank and tax evasion” that are the most important issues, Ecclestone said.

He said he was “not at all” concerned the case would disrupt Formula One’s planned IPO in Singapore. Ecclestone said June 1 he was confident that the share sale by CVC and other shareholders would go ahead later this year when “the markets have settled down.”

“If they were going to charge me they would have done it at the same time” as Gribkowsky, Ecclestone said.

Gribkowsky, who clashed with Ecclestone over governance, told the court Ecclestone wanted BayernLB out of the sport as quickly as the bank wanted to exit.

‘With Hindsight’

“With hindsight, I know now that I should have said no to his demands,” Gribkowsky told the court.

Ecclestone, 81, testified in November that he was caught up in a sophisticated shakedown and bribed Gribkowsky because he feared the banker might tell U.K. tax authorities that he was interfering with a family trust controlled by his then wife, Slavica.

“The reason I paid him was that he was going to say something that wasn’t true: I was a bit stupid,” Ecclestone said.

Gribkowsky will probably get a prison term of no more than 9 years after his confession, Presiding Judge Peter Noll said at the Munich Regional court yesterday. Previously, Gribkowsky had denied the claims.

“He was offered a deal, he took the deal,” Ecclestone said. “I don’t blame him for trying to do a deal to get his sentence reduced. He could have got 12 to 14 years.”

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