Ecclestone says ‘bit of an idiot’ quip was a joke

Bernie Ecclestone

Bernie Ecclestone

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, who has  been in the news this month after a German court in Munich halted a bribery trial against him in exchange for the Briton paying a $100 million fee under an agreed settlement, says he was joking qwhen he called himself an idiot for agreeing to pay $100 million settlement.

Friday, the first day of the Belgian Grand Prix weekend at Spa-Francorchamps, Ecclestone appeared relaxed after the summer break and made it clear that it was business as usual.

Ecclestone, who went on trial in April over allegations he paid a $44 million bribe to a former German banker to facilitate the sale of a major stake in the sport eight years ago, said he would be resuming the seat on the board that he had relinquished.

He would also be able to devote his full attention to the sport after having to make regular trips to Munich to attend the court hearings, “It’s better. I used to have to do things at weekends to catch up, with what I missed.”

The billionaire Briton made light of a throwaway remark after the settlement was announced to the effect that he had been a ‘bit of an idiot’ in agreeing to it.

“I was happy, I was just joking,” he told Reuters after strolling down the paddock with Red Bull‘s four times world champion Sebastian Vettel. “The judge had said there was no case anyway. I’m glad it’s done.”

Asked about the likelihood of a separate settlement with German bank BayernLB, who indicated on Thursday they were open to a compromise to end their legal fight, Ecclestone looked puzzled.

“I don’t know what problem they have got, to be honest with you,” he said. “I don’t know what they are talking about and nobody has contacted me.”

State-backed BayernLB claims Ecclestone collected unjustified commissions and undervalued its stake in the motor racing business when private equity fund CVC became Formula One’s largest shareholder eight years ago. (Reuters)