Bernie Ecclestone F1
Bernie Ecclestone. Reuters

Bernie Ecclestone, the former car salesman who drove Formula One racing's expansion the world over, has stepped down from the racing circuit's management board pending the outcome of a trial in Germany.

The F1 boss has been ordered to stand trial in Munich after he was charged last July with bribing German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky to smooth the sale of a stake in the business to private equity fund CVC Capital Partners eight years ago.

If convicted, the Briton could be sentenced to a maximum of 10 years in prison.

Formula One said that Ecclestone would remain in charge of the day-to-day running of the business, which boasts an annual turnover of around $1.5bn (£918m, €1.1bn).

The 83-year-old billionaire would also face tighter supervision from a Formula One board that includes powerful businessmen such as Nestle chairman Peter Brabeck and WPP chief executive Martin Sorrell, reported Reuters.

"Under current planning, the main trial should start in late April," the Munich court said in a statement on 16 January.

Mr Ecclestone has reassured the Board that he is innocent of the charges...
- Formula One

Formula One said in a statement: "The approval and signing of significant contracts and other material business arrangements shall now be the responsibility of the Chairman, Peter Brabeck, and Deputy Chairman, Donald Mackenzie."

"Mr Ecclestone has reassured the Board that he is innocent of the charges and intends to vigorously defend the case," the statement added.

CVC co-founder Donald Mackenzie has said that his firm would sack Ecclestone if he was found guilty of wrongdoing. CVC is the largest shareholder in Formula One with about a 35% stake.

London Lawsuit

Ecclestone is also awaiting the outcome of a $100m damages claim brought by German media firm Constantin Medien, which alleged that Ecclestone and three other executives deliberately undervalued Formula One when CVC bought into the business in 2005.

That decision is expected in January or February.

Uncertainty about Ecclestone's future has made it impossible to revive delayed plans to list the business on the Singapore Stock Exchange.

The Deal that Turned Sour

In 2012, Germany authorities jailed Gribkowsky for more than eight years for tax evasion and bribery.

Ecclestone did not deny paying Gribkowsky but denied wrongdoing and said he was the victim of extortion after the German threatened to make false claims over his tax affairs.

In 2005 BayernLB sold a 47% stake to CVC for around $830m, after the collapse of Bavarian Leo Kirch's media empire.

However, Constantin Medien said it lost out on a share of the additional proceeds had the stake fetched a higher price -- topping $1bn.