Exclusive: Bernie Ecclestone bribery trial to be fitted around his F1 schedule

The 83-year-old billionaire has been in F1's driving seat for nearly 40 years but his position is now under threat

Bernie Ecclestone has revealed that prosecutors have agreed to schedule hearings in his forthcoming bribery trial in Munich just on Tuesdays and Wednesdays so he can continue to run Formula One and travel to races at the same time.

Ecclestone was speaking at length for the first time since a High Court judge ruled he had paid a bribe to steer the sale of F1 to the private equity firm CVC in 2006. He vowed that the truth will come out in the trial and added that F1's reputation has not been dented by the scandal.

Ecclestone has been in F1's driving seat for nearly 40 years but his position is now under threat. When the trial against him was announced in January he resigned as a director of F1's parent company Delta Topco and if he loses in court he could face a prison sentence. Yet that prospect has made him all the more defiant.

"Of course I can run the company at the same time as doing the trial in Germany," the 83-year-old billionaire told The Independent at a meeting in a London hotel.

"I am in court for two days a week on Tuesday and Wednesday. The judge did it so I am able to go to races at the weekend. I will probably go on Monday nights, because I have to be there at 9.30am, stay Tuesday night and come back Wednesday. He said we will get the hearings on Wednesday out of the way before 5pm so I can leave."

However, Ecclestone admitted that he would need help to run F1 while the case is ongoing. He will not hire a second-in-command but instead, "one or two people here that have been a bit shy on working will have to get their act into gear. I'm going to be bloody busy doing so much that I'm going to need some help or something from internally," he said.

Ecclestone's legal difficulties stem from a $44m (£26m) payment made by him and his Bambino family trust between 2006 and 2007. The recipient was Gerhard Gribkowsky, a former executive at German bank BayernLB (BLB) who was responsible for selling its 47.2 per cent stake in F1. Prosecutors believe that the payment was a bribe to steer the sale of the stake to the private equity firm CVC as it had agreed to retain Ecclestone as F1's chief executive.

Bambino and F1's two remaining shareholders, the investment banks JP Morgan and Lehman Brothers, followed BLB and sold to CVC giving it control of F1. Ecclestone denies paying a bribe.

Last month Ecclestone won a related civil case in London's High Court in which he was accused of undervaluing F1 through the alleged bribe because other bidders may have paid more than CVC. Although Ecclestone won the case, the judge, Mr Justice Newey, ruled that "the payments were a bribe... Mr Ecclestone's aim was to be rid of the banks. He was keen that their shares should be transferred to someone more congenial to him."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before