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Formula One boss Ecclestone flags own value to business

Formula One Chief Executive Bernie Ecclestone arrives at the High Court in central London November 6, 2013. REUTERS/Olivia Harris
Formula One Chief Executive Bernie Ecclestone arrives at the High Court in central London November 6, 2013. REUTERS/Olivia Harris

By Keith Weir

LONDON (Reuters) - Formula One Chief Executive Bernie Ecclestone said much of the motor sport's value before the sale of a major stake to private equity group CVC was down to his running of the business.

Defending a damages claim of more than $100 million brought by German media firm Constantin Medien over that deal, Ecclestone told London's High Court on Thursday that he remained a hands-on manager at the age of 83.

Ecclestone has denied being part of a "corrupt bargain" to undervalue Formula One in order to remain head of a business he had run for decades when CVC paid German bank BayernLB around $830 million for a 47 percent stake in 2005.

Ecclestone said he did not think that jailed German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky, former chief risk officer at BayernLB, had wanted to remove him from his role prior to the sale.

"He gets rid of me and the company is worth nothing," Ecclestone told the court.

"I'm sorry if I seem to be taking a very arrogant position but I am just talking about facts," he added.

The legal fallout from the CVC deal risks ending Ecclestone's long grip on the glamorous motor sport which generates annual revenues of an estimated $2 billion from its series of high-speed races watched by hundreds of millions.

It has also further complicated stalled plans to list the business on the Singapore stock exchange.

Gribkowksy has been jailed in Germany for 8-1/2 years for a $44 million payment he received from Ecclestone and his family trust after the sale. A German court is due to decide next year if Ecclestone should stand trial for bribery.

Ecclestone has told the London court he paid Gribkowsky 10 million pounds after the German threatened to make false claims about his tax status that risked costing him close to $2 billion.

Giving evidence for a second day in the civil case, Ecclestone said he was not concerned about the ownership structure of a business in which he retains a stake of around 5 percent.

"I don't care who the shareholders are and who is on whatever boards," he told the court.

"I run the business," he said, adding he had spent five hours working on Formula One matters on Wednesday evening after a full day in court.

Constantin is a successor to former Formula One shareholder EM.TV. The company is arguing that it missed out on a share of the proceeds that it would have been entitled to had the value of the BayernLB stake exceeded $1.05 billion.

(Editing by Erica Billingham)

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