Bavarian bank to Bernie: Give us $400 million back

State-owned Bavarian bank BayernLB is demanding over $400 million from Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone – the amount it says it lost when one of its employees was bribed into selling its stake in the sport to him in 2005.

Bavarian bank to Bernie: Give us $400 million back
Gerhard Gribkowsky (left) and Bernie Ecclestone. Photo: DPA

Gerhard Gribkowsky, then BayernLB board member, negotiated the sale of the bank’s roughly 50 percent stake to Ecclestone, with whom he was on first name terms. He later secretly received $44 million from Ecclestone, apparently through a foundation belonging to Ecclestone’s then wife, the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported on Thursday.

Gribkowsky was put on trial in Munich, where he admitted that the money had been a bribe, and was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison in June. The 54-year-old ex-banker also testified against Ecclestone, which resulted in Munich state prosecutors opening an investigation into Ecclestone’s culpability.

But the bank was also given access to the prosecutor’s files on Ecclestone, the contents of which have apparently led them to make the huge compensation demand for compensation.

BayernLB acquired the stake in Formula One after the 2002 bankruptcy of Leo Kirch’s media group. Gribkowsky, who was responsible for the bank’s relevant department from 2003 to 2008, told investigators that he could have got more for the bank than the $756 million price it eventually received for its stake, according to the Süddeutsche Zeitung.

In retrospect, the shares were probably worth significantly more, Gribkowsky said. In June, the Wall Street Journal reported that industry insiders in 2005 estimated the company was valued at between $2 billion and $4 billion.

Gribkowsky also said that he had paid Ecclestone an extra kickback worth $66 million – which the bank is also demanding back – and that Ecclestone had offered him a job as an advisor.

Ecclestone has said repeatedly that he only gave Gribkowsky the $44 million because the banker was blackmailing him. He also maintains the Bavarian bank got a “very good price” for its stake in Formula One.

The 81-year-old Ecclestone is still the sport’s chief executive and retains a large shareholding.

The Local/bk

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Four injured as WWII bomb explodes near Munich train station

Four people were injured, one of them seriously, when a World War II bomb exploded at a building site near Munich's main train station on Wednesday, emergency services said.

Smoke rises after the WWII bomb exploded on a building site in Munich.
Smoke rises after the WWII bomb exploded on a building site in Munich. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Privat

Construction workers had been drilling into the ground when the bomb exploded, a spokesman for the fire department said in a statement.

The blast was heard several kilometres away and scattered debris hundreds of metres, according to local media reports.

Images showed a plume of smoke rising directly next to the train tracks.

Bavaria interior minister Joachim Herrmann told Bild that the whole area was being searched.

Deutsche Bahn suspended its services on the affected lines in the afternoon.

Although trains started up again from 3pm, the rail operator said there would still be delays and cancellations to long-distance and local travel in the Munich area until evening. 

According to the fire service, the explosion happened near a bridge that must be passed by all trains travelling to or from the station.

The exact cause of the explosion is unclear, police said. So far, there are no indications of a criminal act.

WWII bombs are common in Germany

Some 75 years after the war, Germany remains littered with unexploded ordnance, often uncovered during construction work.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about WWII bomb disposals in Germany

However, most bombs are defused by experts before they explode.

Last year, seven World War II bombs were found on the future location of Tesla’s first European factory, just outside Berlin.

Sizeable bombs were also defused in Cologne and Dortmund last year.

In 2017, the discovery of a 1.4-tonne bomb in Frankfurt prompted the evacuation of 65,000 people — the largest such operation since the end of the war in Europe in 1945.