BayernLB, which has approached the Formula One chief executive's lawyers in Germany, claims that its shares were undervalued when it sold its 47.2% stake to CVC for £520m. Gerhard Gribkowsky, the former chief risk officer for BayernLB and charged with F1's sale, was jailed for eight and a half years in June after being convicted of tax evasion, bribery and a breach of fiduciary duty over his involvement in the sale.
Gribkowsky alleged that he had received $44m (£27m) from Ecclestone to undervalue the shares but the 81-year-old Englishman denies that the payment was a bribe and says that he made it to facilitate the deal after Gribowsky threatened to produce false evidence making allegations of tax evasion.
The cloud has been hanging over the Ecclestone all year and it has burst on his birthday weekend – he will be 82 on Sunday, when the second Indian Grand Prix will be run. Ecclestone, though, who has a fortune in excess of £3bn, is relaxed about the situation.
"There's nothing to worry about," he said, shrugging after breaking off from a game of backgammon. "I'm not worried. I'm aggravated with the nonsense I'm being put through for all this. I sold the bloody shares for the bank. It was something they couldn't sell. They had six people look at it and wouldn't buy. I got them out of trouble and now I'm in trouble. Life is like that sometimes."
And Ecclestone said the German bank would have to come to England if it wants to get its money. "I live in England," he said. But he added he had not responded to the news from his solicitor in Germany. "There's no point is there? They will sue. If they win, they get paid. If they lose, it will cost them. That's all.
"In a massive per cent of these actions that take place, people settle. They don't want the trouble. The very reason I gave Gribkowsky money was to stop the problem and aggravation which would have gone on for years. I've been blackmailed twice. I don't want it to be a third time."
Ecclestone denies that the new court action threatens his hold on Formula One. "There's nothing to stop me running F1," he said. Asked whether there is any chance he could end up in a German prison, Ecclestone replied: "I hope not. I really hope not. I wouldn't complain about German prisons but I'd rather not be in one anywhere to be honest."
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image: © Nick Webb