Ecclestone late filing F1 accounts

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The Independent Online

As the Formula One season gets under way today, its billionaire boss Bernie Ecclestone is facing the possibility of prosecution by UK Companies House.

Records show that the latest accounts for Mr Ecclestone's main cash-generating company, Formula One Administration (FOA), based in London, are overdue. The accounts should have been filed by 31 October 2004 but the company received a three-month extension until the end of January. However, this deadline has not been met and FOA has already incurred a £100 fine from Companies House as a result.

According to Companies House regulations, failure to deliver documents on time is a criminal offence and all directors of the company could be prosecuted. Mr Ecclestone is chief executive of FOA and it has two other board members: his legal adviser Stephen Mullens and German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky.

FOA is the company that controls the commercial side of F1 motor racing. Its main revenue stream comes from selling the lucrative global media rights to the sport, which has an estimated following of around 180 million television viewers for every race. Its last filed accounts were for the year ending 31 December 2002 and showed a net profit of $127m (£66m) on total sales of $643m.

Bambino Holdings, the Ecclestone family trust, owns 25 per cent of FOA's ultimate parent, SLEC Holdings, with the remaining shares held by three banks: Bayerische Landesbank, JP Morgan and Lehman Brothers. These banks inherited the stake after lending $1.6bn to the media giant Kirch, which used the money to buy 75 per cent of SLEC before collapsing two years ago.

However, the three banks do not have board control of FOA and have brought a case against Mr Ecclestone personally to acquire his voting rights in the company. The trial is due to start at the High Court on 10 May. This follows previous action against Bambino by the banks last December in which they won board control of FOA's direct parent, Formula One Holdings.