• Ecclestone confident of being exonerated of wrongdoing
• Investigation centres on £30.6m paid to German banker
Bernie Ecclestone has travelled to Germany to meet a state prosecutor investigating alleged payments of m (£30.6m) to a German banker during the sale of Formula One’s commercial rights five years ago.
“I have been co-operating with the investigation of the affairs of Dr [Gerhard] Gribkowsky since the outset,” the 80-year-old Ecclestone said in a statement on Friday.
“When I was informed that there was a first suspicion in relation to my perceived involvement in the matter, I went to see the senior state prosecutor and her team in Munich earlier this month to clear up any allegations against me.”
The investigation follows the arrest in January of former BayernLB executive Gribkowsky, whose bank had a stake in Formula One up to 2006 along with JP Morgan, Lehman Brothers and Ecclestone’s family trust.
The banks had acquired a 75% stake in F1 holding company SLEC after the collapse of Germany’s Kirch media group, which had borrowed some .6bn from them. BayernLB was Kirch’s biggest creditor.
SLEC was sold to the Formula One rights holders, private equity firm CVC, in 2006 with Ecclestone remaining hands-on in running the business.
The billionaire said he would continue to co-operate fully with the investigation. “I am confident that when the full facts have been established, I will be exonerated of blame for any wrongdoing.”
Gribkowsky is accused of selling a 48% stake in F1 without proper valuations and receiving the payments disguised as consultancy agreements.
Ecclestone has not been accused of having any connection with the payments, has publicly denied involvement and has said he did not bribe the banker.