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German bank seeks to have last laugh as Ecclestone pokes fun in Christmas card

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German bank seeks to have last laugh as Ecclestone pokes fun in Christmas card
Dec 20, 2014, 11:59 AM

Ever irreverent, Bernie Ecclestone's Christmas card, sent out this week, pokes fun at his court appearance in Munich this year.

Ever irreverent, Bernie Ecclestone's Christmas card, sent out this week, pokes fun at his court appearance in Munich this year. But the German state bank at the heart of the bribery case, now closed, against the 84 year old has sought to have the last laugh.

Bayern LB, the Bavarian state bank, is issuing proceedings against Ecclestone, calling for him to return to court in Munich next year in a £270 million damages claim. The bank, which owned a significant stake in F1 as a creditor of Kirsch Group which went bust while owning a controlling stake in F1, asserts that it lost money in the sale of that stake in F1 to CVC in 2005/6 as a result of Ecclestone's actions.

Ecclestone's bribery case centred on the role of Gerhard Gribkowsky who was a senior manager at the bank and who was convicted of fraud and tax evasion relating the the sale. He is still serving an eight and half year sentence in prison.

Having settled his bribery case in the summer with a payment of $100 million, Ecclestone commissioned his Christmas card to show himself in a snowy street in Munich, lugging a sack with "$100 million" written on it while a highway robber, pointing a gun at Ecclestone, says: "This is not a robbery, I am collecting for the Bavarian state"

Ecclestone Christmas Card 2014

Inside the message says, "Maybe now we can have a Formula One race in the really nice city of Munich, Germany. So have a peaceful Christmas and New Year. Not easy in this chaotic world."

Ecclestone has now seen off a criminal proceedings and two civil actions against him relating to this sale; a £400m claim in New York by a company called Bluewater was thrown out, while another in the London High Court brought by Constantin Medien found in Ecclestone's favour, although the judge was highly critical of the 84 year old tycoon.

He is estimated to have spent somewhere between £12 and 15 million on legal fees as a result of this issue. But while he laughs in the face of the legal adversities, the continuing publicity surrounding them is uncomfortable for CVC and its managing partner in the F1 investment, Donald Mackenzie.

In the London High Court Mackenzie described F1 as "an alarming company to own". But CVC has nevertheless made a five fold gain on its original investment and in court evidence it emerged that it expected eventually to exit having made a 10 times gain.

The news this week that Ecclestone had been returned to the F1 board, rather than gently eased out by a new executive chairman as had been mooted, shows that for the moment CVC still feel that Ecclestone is the best CEO to keep their ambitions on track.

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