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Bernie to fight R5.7bn lawsuit

2012-11-21 08:55

LAWSUIT? WHAT LAWSUIT?: Bernie Ecclestone is unfazed by the latest lawsuit against him as he believes he had nothing to do with the sale of F1 in 2005. Above shows the F1 chief and his wife Fabiana Flosi at the 2012 US GP.

Keith Weir

LONDON, England - Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone said he plans to contest a R5.7-billion damages claim filed in New York, the latest legal case to stem from the sale of the motor racing series in 2005.

Investment firm Bluewaters Communications Holdings filed the suit in the New York State Supreme Court, naming F1 commercial head Ecclestone as one of the defendants.

Bluewaters said it was prepared to offer more than any other bidder for the sport and alleged that Ecclestone had engineered a sale to private equity firm CVC Capital Partners so they would retain him in his role.

'NOTHING TO SELL'

The Bluewaters claim reads: "Ecclestone was motivated by a thirst for power. He wanted desperately to remain 'F1 Supremo'."

The damages relate to what Bluewaters said would be its share of lost earnings from the sport, which attracts huge TV  audiences for its series of 20 races a year around the globe. Its bid was financed by New York private equity firms Apollo Global Management and King Street Capital Management.

Ecclestone told Reuters he was surprised that the case had been brought and said he had not heard of Bluewaters. "I couldn't have been involved - I had nothing to sell,"

The case relates to the sale of a 47% stake in F1 by German bank BayernLB to private equity firm Capital Partners in 2005.

A German court jailed banker Gerhard Gribkowsky earlier in 2012 after he admitted taking R391-million in illegal payments to favour UK-based buyout firm CVC.

The New York case also named BayernLB and CVC among the defendants. Neither company would comment.

BayernLB said last month it was seeking R3.5-billion in damages from Ecclestone over the sale to CVC; Ecclestone said he would fight that claim in court if necessary.

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