Delta Topco Limited, the Jersey-registered parent company of the Formula One group, has announced that Bernie Ecclestone is stepping down from his role as a director of the company, but will continue to run the Formula One business on a day-to-day basis.
The move came after Ecclestone was indicted on corruption charges in Germany. The 83-year-old will go to trial at the end of April in a regional court in Munich. In June 2012, the same court jailed former state bank employee Gerhard Gribkowsky for eight years after convicting him of taking bribes from Ecclestone. The F1 boss denies that he bribed Gribkowsky, arguing that he paid the banker because he was being blackmailed.
“After discussion with the board, Mr Ecclestone has proposed and the board has agreed, that until the 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,” the company said in a statement.
“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.”
All significant Formula One contracts will now be signed off by Delta Topco chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe or by deputy chairman Donald Mackenzie, the CVC executive who is in charge of the F1 investment.
It is clear that the 83-year-old does not want to step down but that the board feels that there is no option than to embark on this course of action. The decision also illustrates the fact that CVC Capital Partners does not seem to know what to do about the future and is worried that without Ecclestone F1 will implode.
This is the only possible explanation for the decision, as in similar circumstances the executive concerned would step down completely and be replaced by someone else. The problem is that the Formula One group does not appear to have anyone with sufficient clout to keep the disparate players pointing in the right direction. This does not mean it is impossible to do, but rather that CVC has not reached a conclusion on who might best be suited to do the job.
The good news is that there are three months before the trial and that will give CVC the chance to look for someone who could replace Ecclestone. Even if he wins the case, which he hopes to do, Ecclestone will still be 83 years of age, which is rather long in the tooth in the world of business executives...