Bernie Ecclestone, head of the Formula One Group, has reportedly stepped down from his position on the motorsport’s board as German prosecutors plan to put him on trial on bribery charges. The 83-year-old Ecclestone is generally regarded as the most powerful player in Formula 1 racing management.
German authorities will reportedly question Ecclestone over whether he paid a $44 million bribe to German Gerhard Gribkowsky, according to Sky News. Although Ecclestone admits he paid Gribkowsky, a banker who was involved in the sale of Formula One assets to capital holdings company CVC Capital almost ten years ago, he reportedly denies the payment was a bribe.
According to the BBC, Ecclestone will continue to oversee the day-to-day operations of Formula 1 management, but will step down from the board until the trial is concluded. “The board believes that 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,” read a statement provided to the BBC.
Bernie Ecclestone got his start in Formula 1 as a driver, and later as a team owner, before helping negotiate the licensing of television rights to the sport. Ecclestone became the chief executive of the Formula One Constructors Association in 1978. Forbes estimates that today he has a net worth of $3.8 billion.