Ecclestone’s F1 role reduced pending trial outcomes

2014 F1 season

Posted on

| Written by

Bernie Ecclestone has stepped down as a director of Formula One as he faces the threat of legal action in Germany.

A statement issued by Formula One Group confirmed Ecclestone will retain day-to-day responsibility for the sport but will come under great control from the company’s board.

Chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe and deputy chairman Donald Mackenzie will assume responsibility for signing “significant contracts and other material business arrangements”, according to the statement.

It is over three years since German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky was arrested on suspicion of receiving a 27m ($44m) bribe from Ecclestone. Gribkowsky was sentenced to eight-and-a-half years in prison and dropped his appeal against the sentence last May.

Ecclestone is to be tried on bribery charges in Munich. Ongoing legal action surrounding the affair includes a case before the High Court in Britainin which media rights company Constantin Medien allege Ecclestone paid a bribe to ensure he would remain in control of the sport when it was sold to current owner CVC in 2006.

2014 F1 season

Browse all 2014 F1 season articles

Image © Red Bull/Getty

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

48 comments on “Ecclestone’s F1 role reduced pending trial outcomes”

  1. I can’t work out whether this is a good thing, or a problem.

    1. I doubt it’ll make much difference at the moment. I would have thought anyone standing in for him is basically going to be a stooge anyway, so his power is not really diminished. But it’s obviously not something he would have wanted to do, so certainly it would seem as if his position is under threat in a way it never has been. I wonder if the team bosses will all stick the knives in if he does get sent down.

  2. Whoa, this is big news right here, could be motorsport history in the making!

  3. Bjornar Simonsen
    16th January 2014, 14:30

    This marks the beginning of the end for Ecclestone and a decades spanning era. I my mind there is no doubt that Mr. E. is a crook, but I’m undecided whether this is good or bad for the sport. He built it to what it is, but F1 also has a lot of problems. I think much more is going on behind the curtains than what we know. No matter the charges, Ecclestone was bound to leave soon because of his age, too bad for him he has to leave in this fashion. I wonder what will happen in F1 now.

    1. W (@yesyesyesandyesagain)
      16th January 2014, 14:41

      Him leaving in this fashion is his own fault. If you are going to resort to illegal bribes to carry out your business you have to be prepared for the consequences that stem from that decision.

      1. Im sure this is not the only illegal bribe he has ever made. Maybe his entire carrier is made up of bribes and deals, who knows. Money buys everything these days including the best lawyers to protect you and to clear your name even if you “are” guilty. But time comes when one has to learn to grow up, let go and move on, otherwise it may all blow up in their face.

        1. A quick look at where Bernie has chosen to hold races is another clue. No doubt Bernie would love any excuse to replace a Silverstone or Montreal with another vanity project like Bahrain, Abu Dhabi, Shanghai, or Malaysia. It only takes a contribution to the Bambino.

    2. petebaldwin (@)
      16th January 2014, 16:01

      I fail to see how F1 could be run any worse. F1 is a hugely rich sport and yet the following statements are true:

      Most fans are priced out of going to races.
      Lots of fans are unable to watch races live due to expensive pay TV deals.
      Lots of teams are struggling to make ends meet so much they take on pay drivers.
      One team (one of the richest) gets paid more than the others regardless of their finishing position.
      The most dull race on the calendar has now been made the the most important because they paid for it.
      etc etc

      The main issue is that I can’t see anyone taking over who will make decisions based on what is good for the sport as opposed to what is good for their wallet.

      1. Commment of the day

      2. @petebaldwin

        The main issue is that I can’t see anyone taking over who will make decisions based on what is good for the sport as opposed to what is good for their wallet.

        I really don’t think that a well-known person is required here. Just a honest one will be a good start. The same apply for FIA presidency.

      3. -People who travel abroad to races have no reasonable way of getting live timing because FOM couldnt agree on a deal with Fanvision.

        Those of you with Fanvisions, have you sold them or are you hoping it comes back to F1?

      4. The main issue is that I can’t see anyone taking over who will make decisions based on what is good for the sport as opposed to what is good for their wallet.

        I am a little confused as to the message you are trying to send. Are you in support of Bernie being replaced or against?

        For me personally, all those issues you have outlined above, need to be dealt with (be fixed) for the good of the sport. And if things stay the same (run by the same people over and over and over), nothing will ever change.

        Yes Bernie has done many good things. But his time is over, it’s time to let go and move on and let someone or “something” else run the show; hopefully not one person but a board of executives. I for one cannot wait for a day when tickets are cheaper and all teams are treated and payed equally, and all the other points you made be corrected.

    3. No matter the charges, Ecclestone was bound to leave soon because of his age, too bad for him he has to leave in this fashion.

      Exactly my thoughts. If I was him, I would have thought about these issues ahead and made appropriate plans. But like most men, once they grab hold of power they find it hard to let go.

  4. The string of bad news continues.

  5. I really don’t know how to feel about this. While Ecclestone remains in charge for now, it’s possible that his influence will gradually decrease and that this is the beginning of the end of his reign.

    I’ve never been a fan of Ecclestone, he seems to be a greedy, cynical and dishonest person, many of the things that he’s responsible for (unfair income distribution, too high ticket prices, moving F1 away from democratic countries, Abu Double and so on) have done damage to F1 and I’m sure that it is possible to run the sport in a better way.

    At the same time, the world is full of greedy, cynical and dishonest people, who don’t have the entrepreneurial skills and the understanding of F1 that Ecclestone possesses. F1 is a very complex sport with humongous amounts of money involved and I think there are not many people, who are capable of doing Ecclestone’s job.

    So I’ll reserve my judgement for when someone else takes Ecclestone’s place. He will not only have to be a better man, he’ll have to be an F1 fan and an outstanding businessman, too.

    1. You can be a great businessman & fan of F1 without being an intimidating crook…

    2. Yes, I think it would be wise to see what happens next before passing judgement.
      I wonder though, if there was a lot of behind-the-scenes pressure to get things like the Pirelli extension (done) and the Concorde Agreement (not done) signed before the German authorities acted.
      It’s to come to court in April, and I suppose it could last for some time.
      By the way, I like your avatar @girts. What does the HK stand for?

      1. @TimothyKatz Thanks a lot! HK stands for Heikki Kovalainen :)

        1. Course it does! Idiot me.

  6. I don’t know if I’m supposed to think it is bad news or good news.

    Pretty historic though.

  7. Of all this, I hope they get someone young, less greedy, but also F1-oriented so they can realize the need to lower entry fees for both the teams and those hosting the races, which should attract a larger fan base, more teams, and more host cities.

    1. I nominate Will Buxton.

  8. Will be very interesting to see how this all pans out…

  9. Just realised one of those ‘chairmen’ is Peter Brabeck, a lunatic who believes drinkable water is not a human right, and rich employers should be enforcing unlimited working hours on their employee slaves.

    Here’s a video:

    Seriously considering boycotting F1 just because of this guy.

    1. Oh dear, I don’t know how they find all this characters, Bernie, Mosley and now this guy, why can’t there be a normal person in charge for a change.

      1. He looks like a robot with absolutely no signs of humanity or dignity.

    2. My my, that really shows how dangerous the detachment from reality is. In my city there was an expression (not anymore because of “civilization”) never turn down a request for a glass of water, used when someone was traveling and knocked on a door for a glass of water, or when someone was at somebody else place to do any work.

  10. While he would have eventually had to step down, it’s better, I think, that it happens gradually, though it’s sad that he has been forced to do so by the situation: at least by doing so of his own will he saves some of his dignity.
    Ecclestone might have his weaknesses and downsides, but overall he was great at his job and I hope his successor[s] can keep up the good work and, why not, improve.

  11. This is the end, short little friend.
    I never cease being amazed at the number of people who think Ecclestone has been good for F1. He took a motor sport and turned into a gimmicky, bloated, unaffordable, unsustainable, tacky soap opera about racing. Sure, it makes billions, but just about the only good Bernie’s done is for himself and his billionaire fraternity. It’s a sign of the times, I guess, that “business growth” is unquestioningly taken to be a positive in and of itself, no matter the collateral damage, as if businesses couldn’t have a conscience. He ain’t quite gone yet, but where there’s smoke, there’s fire. So good friggin’ riddance, ya corrupt, crooked little sleaze.

    1. Couldn’t agree more, Maciek.

    2. I’d like to challenge your assertion @maciek. Bernie took a small time sport and was able to market it into a proper international sport – and then he turned it into his cash-printer.

      Eccles was great for the sport and its really because of him that it gets so much media coverage. Keyword is “was”. Not “is”. Some time around the rise of the World Wide Web he jumped the shark, and F1 really needs to be rid of him.

  12. Finally, the end is near you crook! I have been screaming for years that this man is a no good cheat that has no interest in ‘the best interest for the sport’, the only thing he has ever cared about are his own pockets. Time for a fresh face with fresh ideas, time to end the corruption.

    I will admit that Bernie has done some good for the sport, however…. for all the good he has done, he has done twice the bad.

    1. @force-maikel And you honestly believe someone will take his place who does have a best interest in the sport? As long as CVC Capital owns the rights they’ll put someone in charge who will continue to milk the cash cow. Bernie has done a lot of good for the sport (and he’s been part of it for many, many years), will his successor (if any) as well? I’m not so sure this is so awesome for the sport, time will tell.

      1. I’m not trying to be a ****, but what are some of the good things Bernie has done for F1? I can’t think of any. Since he has been in charge F1 has gotten consistently worse in my opinion. Slowly and consistently worse. Not enough from one season to the next to make me quit after 35 years, but maybe that is his genius. Although I haven’t spent a dime on it in 10 years. It’s so frustrating to watch. At least Indy car committed suicide in a short time frame.

  13. With Bernie, it’s all about the devil you know; who would be the successor in this case? I would love to see F1 fall into the hands of someone who will care about the sport and its fans.

    I think most F1 fans gripe about Bernie and his ridiculous ideas, but if the next F1 director is just a suit from CVC, is it really going to be any better? Perhaps it will do well under someone with lots of motorsport experience, like Jean Todt, or others like Ari Vatanen (I know he ran for FIA presidency at some point, but lost to Todt). Then again, I don’t know enough about those guys to predict what sort of impact they would have on F1.

    Like a lot of things in F1, this will be a ‘wait and see’ situation.

  14. All I can hope for now is that Formula One actually listens to it’s fans as a result and really begins to tackle the spiralling costs issue.

    Ecclestone has been very good at fostering the sport as it has grown to the commercial giant it is, time now to let his child tackle it’s own issues and hopefully it doesn’t spiral into drug abuse.

    1. Spiral into drug abuse? F1 is already a total heroin junkie, just hope someone comes and takes us into rehab.

  15. Well, I think it’s time I declare my interest in taking on Bernie’s position: I nominate myself as the next Formula One Supremo!
    What can I offer?
    I do not have grey hair, and unlike some others have suggested, I do not wear a wig.
    I do not have any avaricious dependent wives, ex-wives or children.
    I do not have complicated tax affairs that require battalions of companies, trusts and accountants to obscure, obfuscate and hide behind.
    I do not intend to debase or prostitute F1 racing to the level of WWF in search of even more money.
    I will not deal with repressive regimes or countries merely in order to maximise my earnings.
    I will not grant any one team or individual any significant advantage in terms of remuneration or influence over any other team or individual.
    I will not seek to influence or alter the outcome of future races or seasons by means of rules or points amendments without giving three years notice and inviting open debate.
    I will not grant an apparent monopoly or stranglehold on the design of F1 racing circuits to any company or organisation.
    I will answer any question placed before me in as honest, straightforward and complete manner as I am able to do so.
    I am not in any way a devious, manipulative or political animal.
    I am taller.

    1. @timothykatz I didn’t care for your reasons… until I saw the last one. Righto, you have my vote!

  16. I’m sure there are a lot of overjoyed fans out there who think that this will be one of the best things that has happened to the sport, but I cannot help but take a much more pessimistic view of things. We know Formula 1 is lucrative, with hundreds of millions of dollars at stake, but whatever Bernie’s shortcomings, at least he maintained order. There is one inevitable conclusion that will arise the moment he loses control over the sport: war. Everyone has something to gain from Bernie relinquishing control – whether by choice or because he is forced to – and I am afraid that the sport will be the first casualty in the mad scramble to get as many fingers into as many pies as possible.

    1. Not only war: bureaucracy. Once control is on order, there will be hierarchy. There will be levels of control, decision making, information clearance. Whoever follows Bernie will probably be some corporate fat cat who thinks bringing order into any sort of organization or process is holy.

      The reason Bernie gets his side of the deal done is because he is an entrepreneur. Despite his age and the age of the sport/FOM, he is a deal maker. Not even a car salesman; he’s the kid selling gum on the playground. Sure, the kids these days are rich kids who have to fill in tax reforms to their parents, instead of being as ‘free’ to make a deal as they were in the past..

      I’d much rather see someone like Richard Branson, Eddie Jordan or Lord Sugar in there than someone like Christian Horner, LdM or ‘some guy that did the merch for some US sports team’.

    2. There is one inevitable conclusion that will arise the moment he loses control over the sport: war. Everyone has something to gain from Bernie relinquishing control – whether by choice or because he is forced to – and I am afraid that the sport will be the first casualty in the mad scramble to get as many fingers into as many pies as possible.

      Well, that is all possible. Especially if Bernie didn’t make arrangements and/or did not think about his replacement ahead of time. Let’s be realistic, he is not 30yo and it is only a matter of time before he is unable to carry out his duties to full. There should always be (and maybe there is!) a backup plan in case something like this happens.

      1. This is Bernie we are talking about – he has back-up plans for his back-up plans. He’s like that mad supervillain who is somehow able to execute a complex plan that not only accurately anticipates the heroes’ equally-complex plans to thwart his efforts, but incorporate them into his own plans. It’s a very frustrating thing when you read it in a novel or watch it in a film, but here it has allowed Bernie to maintain control over the sport and grow it pretty consistently.

        So of course he knows who his successor is. But any criminal case against him is going to weaken his position, so his preferred successor may not get the job.

      2. Don’t underestimate the lack of planning the typical entrepreneurial business has. Someone in my classes (I’m in business school) is doing an internship at a family business that has been going for 50 years and if the old man passes, there is literally nothing in place for who takes over what. He even got scoffed at for suggesting they spend time on that. It’s more common than you think.

  17. Honestly, this news and the news about Ron Dennis reek more of conventional business than F1. The wrong kind of conventional business: symbolic moves that either keep the same people in power despite trying to send a message otherwise and ousting someone from power while stating that isn’t the case.

Comments are closed.