Bernie Ecclestone has been rehabilitated. His alleged but unproven crimes have been purged from his record by Donald McKenzie. Prior to the bribery and corruption charges Ecclestone faced in Munich last year, he was force to resign his various statutory directorships in the FOM group of companies.
At the time CVC stated, “After discussion with the Board, Mr Ecclestone has proposed and the Board has agreed that until the [Gribkowsky] case has been concluded, he will step down as a director with immediate effect, thereby relinquishing his board duties and responsibilities until the case has been resolved.
It is in the best interests of both the F1 business and the sport that Mr Ecclestone should continue to run the business on a day to day basis, but subject to increased monitoring and control by the Board. Mr Ecclestone has agreed to these arrangements.
The approval and signing of significant contracts and other material business arrangements shall now be the responsibility of the Chairman, Mr Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, and Deputy Chairman, Mr Donald Mackenzie”.
So Bernie had to ask permission for every deal he was to agree, which is not how Mr. E likes to roll.
Bernie predictably refused to be cowed by the announcement. “Business as usual,” he insisted. “All that’s happened is a few months’ ago we decided that if I had to appear in court, during that period I would stand down from my role as a director of Delta Topco”.
However, in an apparent moment of self-doubt a short time later, Ecclestone revealed at the time to the Daily Mirror, “I’m going to be 84 this year so I am probably going to have to start to think, ‘Do I want to go into the 85th year doing what I’ve been doing for goddamn how many years’. It’s something I’ll have to give some very serious thought to.
The important thing is to know when you should hang the boxing gloves up. So you are not going to end up going into the ring and getting a good hiding.”
Clearly, Bernie was concerned his future could involve gazing upon the sunrise through vertical tubular bars of steel. The German courts had just convicted the ex-Bayern Munich president and sentenced him to 3 ½ years. Uli Hoeness, like Ecclestone, is well connected, such that he was having lunch with Angela Merkel when he was informed of the investigation into his alleged tax fraud.
Those who long for a Bernie free Formula One, began to believe the German courts were a bastian of justice and no respecter of persons, but Ecclestone refused to accept the Hoeness case started him thinking about quitting. When this was put to Ecclestone, he replied “No. That’s nothing,” then as if to assure himself he added, “No, no”.
Clearly the impending case against him in Bavaria was playing on his mind because Ecclestone then entered into dialogue about how F1 would look ‘post Bernie’. “The way people have to run businesses today compared to how they used to. I never knew about corporate governance back then, different committees, ethics committees and God knows what else boards to report to. I never reported to any.
I didn’t know about any of these things back then. Probably, if I had of done, I wouldn’t have lasted as long as I lasted”.
The potential ramifications for the impending Ecclestone case was sending shockwaves around the international corporate finance world. The ‘sovereign fund of Norway’ publically stated they should never have invested in F1 due to the fund’s ‘anti-corruption’ regulations.
Oh the beautiful naivety – or was it panic from our Northern European bothers who acquired a 21% slice of Piranha action.
Gazing at a possible new dawn, Ecclestone reflected “If Mr McKenzie decides to sell his shares in the company, as far as I am concerned it depends on who the other people are who buy the shares. It’s as simple as that. I am in the very fortunate position I don’t need to go and get a job. I never have had. I’ve been lucky.
“As far as the company side is concerned, I’ve had five or six different shareholders in the last 15 years. Five or six different bosses.
I’ve always run the company the way I thought it should be run. The minute I can’t do that I will leave. If Donald sells his shares to someone and I’m not happy with the people, I would go. I don’t have to stay.”
It was impossible not to be caught up in the vision of how it would all end for Bernie. As he slipped into his snakeskin slippers, cranked up his treasured handmade walnut gramophone and reached for a beloved vinyl. Mr. E then blows away the dust and sets the needle, styles into his trusty Rhino skin armchair to listen to an old blue eyed friend…. ‘and now… ’
Yet on a day of grace, when the people of Bavaria decided to extract $100m from Bernie for their social and welfare fund and then released Mr. E as neither guilty or not, all thoughts of Ecclestone retiring or handing over the reins – were banished.
And now Bernie’s comeback is complete. His honour returned and no longer does he have to ask Big Don if he can sign his name on pieces of paper. Because on the 15th September 2015, Mr. Ecclestone’s directorships were reinstated and recorded in the legislative annuls of the various Delta Topco companies.
Bernie now just has the small matter of the British governments tax authorities investigation into a possible missing billion £’s of unpaid tax.