Court rules against Ecclestone

A High Court judge has ruled against F1's commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone in a legal dispute with three German banks. The decision could see a shift in the power that Ecclestone holds over the sport.

Court rules against Ecclestone

The three banks, Bayerische Landesbank, JP Morgan and Lehman Brothers - known as Speed Investments - control 75 per cent of SLEC, the holding company that owns the commercial rights to F1. Ecclestone owns the remaining 25 per cent in a family trust.

Speed took action against Ecclestone following the appointment of two directors to the board of Formula One Holdings, which is owned by SLEC, two years ago. The banks argue that they own 75 per cent of the shares but they do not have any control because the board is made up of people appointed by Ecclestone.

At the start of a judgment, which lasted several hours, Justice Andrew Park said: "In my judgment it is clear that Speed's contentions are correct and I should therefore make the declarations which it requests."

Ecclestone admitted he was not bothered by the ruling and claimed the banks were merely trying to add value to their shares.

When asked what the court ruling meant for him, Ecclestone told Reuters: "Nothing at all. The banks, they want to get out. These people didn't get their shares out of choice, they got them as a security. They got the house and they don't want the house."

The three banks inherited their shares in F1 after the collapse of German media giant Kirch in 2002. As creditors, Bayerische Landesbank, JP Morgan and Lehman Brothers were given Kirch's assets, which included the F1 stake.

"Now they want to cash in the house and that's what they're trying to do," Ecclestone added.
"We have no problems with the banks. This is just a problem of them trying to put value on their shares."

At stake is Ecclestone's hold over an empire that he has been building for the past 20 years. If the banks were to do a deal with the GPWC, the group of car manufacturers threatening to break away from F1, Ecclestone's power could decrease significantly.

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