F1 Supremo Bernie Ecclestone
Bernie Ecclestone assured a German banker who would be 'taken care of', a court has heard Reuters

Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone promised a German banker he would "take care of him" for overseeing a deal that saw a stake in the sport sold to the 83-year-old's preferred bidder, a court has heard.

Gerhard Gribkowsky was jailed in 2012 for eight-and-a-half years for accepting $44m (£26m) in bribes between 2006 and 2007 from Ecclestone and his family's trust, Bambino, money German prosecutors claim was to "smooth over" a lucrative deal for almost half of F1.

Ecclestone, 83, who it is alleged wanted Gribkowsky's BayernLB bank to sell the 47% it owned of F1 to CVC Capital Partners, a private investment fund, so he could consolidate his own position as chief executive of the sport, denies the payments were fraudulent.

CVC eventually paid $820m (£504m) for the stake in 2006, but Ecclestone claims the multi-million dollar payments he funneled to Gribkowsky were to silence the banker, who he said threatened to make false claims about the billionaire's tax status, and were not bribes.

Ecclestone, who attends court twice a week so he can go to F1 races, faces 10 years in prison if he is found guilty of of bribery and aiding and abetting a breach of trust in relation to payments.

The German nodded and smiled to Ecclestone as he took the witness stand at the Munich court and Ecclestone was reported by Reuters to have returned the smile.

The former banker opened his testimony with a revelation that would surprise many F1 fans. "Only the business interested him, not the racing action," said Gribkowsky.


Prosecutors heard how the pair were on a collision course before the deal with CVC was struck, with BayernLB, which was the sport's largest shareholder at the time, looking to curtail Ecclestone's role.

The two patched up their relationship, however, and Gribkowsky told the court how his employers ratcheted up tension.

"It was a case of building up pressure to resolve the situation as quickly as possible," he said, "being unpleasant to reach your goal. We put our differences to one side in a professional way. I went with him to races."

The trial, which is expected to last until at least September, continues.