Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone said this week a bribery case brewing in Germany could end his nearly 40-year reign over the world’s premier motor sport.
He told the Telegraph the current owners of F1, private equity firm CVC, ‘will probably be forced to get rid of me if the Germans come after me. It’s pretty obvious, if I’m locked up.’
German authorities may charge Ecclestone with paying a banker $44 million to make sure he could buy the bank’s stake in F1 six years ago.
At the banker’s trial in Germany last year, Ecclestone, 82, said he made the payment under duress when Gerhard Gribkowsky of BayernLB threatened to trigger a U.K. tax investigation.
F1 is the top class of single-seater car racing sanctioned by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile.
Ecclestone sold the racing series to CVC in 2006 for $1.6 billion.
‘They said they had hired a head-hunter to find somebody in the event that I was not going to be there – if I was going to die or something,’ Ecclestone told The Sunday Telegraph. ‘It is the normal thing they do to keep people happy.’
In late 2011, there were reports the U.K. Serious Fraud Office might launch an investigation into Ecclestone’s alleged bribery. The SFO hasn’t announced any action or commented on the case.