Under fire Bernie Ecclestone insists that CVC, the owners of Formula 1’s commercial rights, are very happy to keep him at the helm of the sport.
That is despite the fact the 82-year-old has been formally charged with bribery by prosecutors in Germany, who allege that he blackmailed the jailed banker Gerhard Gribkowsky to undersell the rights to CVC.
After news of Ecclestone’s indictment broke, CVC issued a terse statement saying it will “monitor” the situation.
“An oath of loyalty sounds different,” the major German newspaper Die Welt opined.
Michael Schmidt, of Auto Motor und Sport, agreed: “[CVC’s statement] does not sound like unconditional support.”
Additionally, FIA president Jean Todt is quoted as saying: “[Ecclestone] is employed by CVC, so it’s their decision.
“The responsibility for the future of Formula 1 is more about CVC than about Bernie,” he is also quoted, by Neue Zurcher Zeitung.
Also monitoring the situation is BayernLB, the Munich bank that Gribkowsky was representing when Ecclestone allegedly bribed him.
A spokesman for the bank said: “We are following events closely.”
In the meantime, Ecclestone’s troubles are the big talking point behind closed doors in F1 circles.
Bild newspaper correspondent Helmut Uhl wrote: “Team bosses, sponsors, big companies such as Ferrari, Red Bull and their partners are wondering: is Ecclestone still viable as F1 boss?”
The Daily Telegraph’s Tom Cary said: “In most sports it would be difficult to imagine a chief executive remaining in power with these sorts of charges swirling about. But F1 is not most sports, and Ecclestone is not most men.”
Indeed, Ecclestone insists that he has CVC’s backing.
“I have heard from them and they are very happy as I am for me to continue to run the business,” he is quoted by the Daily Express correspondent Bob McKenzie.
“Nothing has changed. Nothing affects how I look after the best interests of F1. No one has said anything to the contrary,” claimed Ecclestone.
For now, F1’s competing teams are quiet, with the first comment made by Sauber team boss Monisha Kaltenborn, according to Neue Zurcher Zeitung newspaper. “In general,” she said, “such headlines are not good for F1.” (GMM)
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