sport

Court dismisses Ecclestone case

Bernie Ecclestone faces one less legal headache after the New York Surpeme Court dismissed a potential civil action against the F1 supremo.

American investment firm Bluewaters Communications Holdings LLC was seeking to sue Ecclestone for 650million US dollars (392.5m) in the wake of the sport's controversial sale to CVC in 2006.

Bluewaters claims it was the highest bidder when German bank Bayern LB sold its 47 per cent stake in F1 to CVC Capital Partners.

The investment firm lost out, however, due to an alleged bribe Ecclestone paid to Gerhard Gribkowsky, then Bayern LB's chief risk officer.

Gribkowsky is currently serving an eight-and-a-half-year jail term after being found guilty of breach of trust, tax evasion and receipt of corrupt payments.

Ecclestone is scheduled to go on trial in Germany at the end of April to answer accusations of bribery.

The substantial sum of money Bluewaters was seeking represented the share of the profits it claims it should have recouped from the running of the sport, and not CVC.

But Justice Eileen Bransten for the NYSC dismissed Bluewaters' claim against Ecclestone, his companies Alpha Prema, Alpha Topco and Delta Topco, along with CVC, Bayern LB and Gribkowsky, who were also named as defendants.

In her judgment, announced last Thursday but with details only now published on the Court's online library, Bransten remarked the claim had no merit as "New York is an inconvenient forum for this legal dispute".

Bransten further noted "the 'critical events' underlying the claims in this lawsuit took place in Germany, England, and elsewhere in Europe", with Bluewaters operating out of Jersey at the time they made their failed bid to buy into F1.

Bransten added: "This action is not about a lost business venture in New York, but rather on allegations that an English citizen bribed a German citizen to compel a German bank to sell its interest in a Jersey company to an English company rather than another Jersey company.

"The plaintiff's creation of a New York entity merely days before this action was commenced is a blatant attempt at forum shopping, and the court considers Bluewaters to be a Jersey entity operating out of London or the Channel Islands, with no presence in New York except for its legal counsel.

"What it (Bluewaters) ignores is that this case involves a foreign plaintiff (Ecclestone), and that all eight defendants are foreign; the critical events happened in Europe; the bulk of the discovery will happen abroad; the dispute is covered by either English or German law, and that at least three more convenient forums are available - England, Germany and Jersey."

Bransten suggested Germany would be a better venue for such a suit given it has already staged one trial against Gribkowsky, with another pending against Ecclestone.

The 83-year-old and the other defendants were awarded costs.