The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

German bank rejects F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone's offer of $33 million over stake sale

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MUNICH - A German bank that once held a major stake in Formula One on Friday rejected Bernie Ecclestone's offer of a 25 million euro ($33 million) settlement in a dispute over the sale of that stake.

Earlier this week, a Munich court dropped a bribery case against Ecclestone connected to the sale of Munich-based bank BayernLB's F1 stake in exchange for a $100 million payment. After hearing more than three months of evidence, the court said it had serious doubts the F1 boss could be convicted of bribery and incitement to breach of trust.

Separately, BayernLB has been keeping open the option of civil proceedings against the 83-year-old Englishman. The bank did preparatory work on a damages claim against Ecclestone late last year, but didn't file it.

Ecclestone's lawyers last week offered to pay the public-sector bank 25 million euros, though they said damage to the company wasn't evident. The bank said it rejected the offer, without giving reasons, and didn't say what its next move might be. The offer expired Friday.

The charges in the now-closed bribery trial centred on a $44 million payment by Ecclestone to former BayernLB executive Gerhard Gribkowsky, who is serving an 8 1/2-year sentence for taking the money. Gribkowsky was convicted of corruption, tax evasion and breach of trust.

Ecclestone denied wrongdoing and said Gribkowsky, who was in charge of selling BayernLB's stake in F1 in 2005, blackmailed him.

In another case related to the sale, German media company and former F1 shareholder Constantin Medien sued Ecclestone and other defendants for up to $144 million, claiming F1 was undervalued at the time of the sale to investment group CVC Capital Partners. The case was dismissed in February, with London's High Court saying that the deal was corrupt but Constantin didn't lose out.

BayernLB's complaints have involved the valuation of the stake and a $41 million commission paid to Ecclestone.

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