'Business as usual' for Ecclestone

Congleton Guardian: Bernie Ecclestone has relinquished his role as a director of Delta Topco - F1's holding company Bernie Ecclestone has relinquished his role as a director of Delta Topco - F1's holding company

Bernie Ecclestone is adamant little will change with regard to his running of Formula One despite the fact he is to stand trial later this year on allegations of bribery.

Speaking to Press Association Sport on the day the court in Munich confirmed the 83-year-old F1 supremo faces a trial, Ecclestone was typically calm and unruffled.

Although Ecclestone has opted to relinquish his role as a director of the sport's holding company, Delta Topco, when it comes to the day-to-day running of F1, Ecclestone's hand will remain on the tiller.

"Business as usual," insisted a defiant Ecclestone.

"All that's happened is a few months' ago we decided that if I had to appear in court, during that period I would stand down from my role as a director of Delta Topco.

"For Formula One Management it's the same as before. There is no change at all.

"It's just that if I wanted to buy something I can't do it without board approval, but when it comes to races, circuits, it will be as we've always done. It will be the same thing."

The allegations centre around claims Ecclestone bribed German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky with a 44million US dollars (£29million) payment to help smooth the sale of F1 in 2006 to private equity firm CVC Capital Partners.

Ecclestone has previously claimed he was being "shaken down" by Gribkowsky, who was at the time employed as the chief risk officer at Bayern LB, the German bank overseeing the sale.

Gribkowsky was imprisoned in June 2012 for eight and a half years after being found guilty of breach of trust, tax evasion and receipt of corrupt payments.

Prosecutors in Gribkowsky's trial claimed he sold the stake without updating its valuation in return for bribes disguised as consulting contracts.

Ecclestone has admitted making the payment to Gribkowsky, but claims he did so because he had been threatened with blackmail.

The suggestion is that Thursday's announcement is a forerunner to Ecclestone ultimately relinquishing his hold over F1.

However, he said: "That's complete nonsense.

"Everybody on the board is more than a million per cent supportive. They just want me to get on with doing what I always do.

"The minute the court case is over then I'll be back on the board again."

With regard to the board, a statement read: "The board of Delta Topco Limited has met today to discuss the decision of the Munich Court to commence proceedings against Mr Ecclestone.

"Mr Ecclestone has reassured the board that he is innocent of the charges and intends to vigorously defend the case, which will commence in late April.

"After discussion with the board, Mr Ecclestone has proposed and the board has agreed that until the case has been concluded, he will step down as a director with immediate effect, thereby relinquishing his board duties and responsibilities until the case has been resolved.

"The board believes that it is in the best interests of both the F1 business and the sport that Mr Ecclestone should continue to run the business on a day-to-day basis, but subject to increased monitoring and control by the board. Mr Ecclestone has agreed to these arrangements.

"The approval and signing of significant contracts and other material business arrangements shall now be the responsibility of the chairman, Mr Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, and deputy chairman, Mr Donald Mackenzie."

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