Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has finally been indicted on corruption charges relating to the sale of the sport’s commercial rights to CVC Capital Partners.
It is expected that Ecclestone would be forced to stand aside from his position at the head of the sport.
A court in Bavaria, Germany, has ruled that there is convincing evidence to warrant a full indictment to respond to allegations that he secretly paid the sale’s broker, Gerhard Gribkowsky, a bribe totalling $44m (£27m) for his silence over how the Ecclestone family trusts were managed.
It is expected that the trial will occur sometime in April.
Quite what the sport’s owners, CVC Capital Partners, decide to do with Ecclestone during this time remains to be seen. It would certainly be unusual for the 83-year-old to be allowed to remain in his post, but Formula 1 is vastly different from a conventional commercial enterprise.
As we had suggested in an earlier opinion piece, the sport could risk descending into chaos without Ecclestone controlling the strings, but his indictment will make third-party organisations associated with the sport extremely nervous.
Corporate regulation could indeed force Ecclestone to go, at least temporarily.
All of this news has broken amid confirmation – and certainly unusually timed – that Ecclestone has put in a bid to rescue the financially embattled Nürburgring circuit, effectively securing the long-term future of the German Grand Prix.
Its current owners have been in administration for some time and were forced to put the venue up for sale after a (laughably) ambitious plan of building a theme park within the circuit grounds failed to bring in the hoped-for revenue.
Quite whether his rescue of the home race will impress the German courts remains to be seen…
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