German banking group BayernLB is planning to bring a $400m (€294m) damages claim against Formula One Group chief executive Bernie Ecclestone in London next month, according to the Reuters news agency.
The new claim forms the latest part of a legal battle over the sale of the motor racing business in 2005. The Constantin Medien media company is already seeking damages over the agreement that made private equity group CVC Capital Partners F1’s main shareholder. Constantin is seeking over $100m in compensation in a separate case being heard in the High Court in London. Constantin claims that Ecclestone and three other defendants, the F1 chief’s former lawyer Stephen Mullens, the Ecclestone family's Bambino Holdings and Gerhard Gribkowsky, deliberately undervalued Formula One when CVC bought into the business in 2005.
Gribkowsky, former chief risk officer at BayernLB, has already been jailed for more than eight years for tax evasion and bribery after taking a $44m payment from Ecclestone as part of the deal. BayernLB was one of the banks left in control of Formula One after the collapse of German businessman Leo Kirch’s media empire, which owned the rights to the sport. BayernLB sold a 47-per-cent stake to CVC for around $830m in 2005.
A spokesman for BayernLB told Reuters: “We can confirm that BayernLB is working at high speed on civil charges against Mr Ecclestone and expects to file suit against him in the High Court in London in January 2014.” A person familiar with the matter said the state-backed bank would be seeking up to $400m in damages.
Whilst giving evidence in the Constantin case in the High Court last month, Ecclestone said he paid Gribkowsky £10m (€11.8m/$16m) as an “insurance policy” because the German banker was threatening to make damaging claims about his tax affairs to British authorities. Ecclestone maintained the payment had no connection to the CVC deal. A Munich court is expected to decide in the new year whether Ecclestone will have to stand trial for bribery.