The battle between Bernie Ecclestone and the banks for control of Formula One was in court this week, with Ecclestone losing the preliminary hearing. The banks -- Bayerische Landesbank, JP Morgan and Lehman Brothers -- control 75% of SLEC, F1's commercial rights company. An Ecclestone trust owns the other 25%, which the banks are seeking to gain control of.
A London High Court this morning, November 12th, rejected an appeal by Ecclestone's Formula One Holdings (FOH) to have the dispute heard under Swiss law. This means the case will go ahead in British courts, as the judge ruled that waiting for a hearing in Geneva would only increase delays and expenses.
The banks are unhappy about the appointment of FOH directors because although they own 75%, they do not have control over who is appointed to the board. If the banks win the case they will effectively take over the business. This preliminary hearing only ruled on jurisdiction but "the overall dispute concerns the control and future of Formula One racing," the judge stated.
The eventual outcome is of importance to Grand Prix World Championship; if the banks gain control it's speculated that the management of F1 would be passed over to the group. However, Ecclestone is not to be underestimated and the real battle won't commence until the next hearing. A date has not yet been announced.