A judge has ruled against Bernie Ecclestone in a boardroom dispute which challenged the businessman’s control of the firm behind Formula One racing.
Three creditor banks were disputing the make-up of the board of Formula One Holdings (FOH) – the company that runs the Grand Prix circuit.
Outlining his judgment at London’s High Court, Mr Justice Andrew Park said the banks’ “contentions are correct”. But Mr Ecclestone has reportedly said the verdict means “nothing at all”.
Talking to the Reuters news agency, Mr Ecclestone added: “The banks, they want to get out. These people didn’t get their shares out of choice, they got them as a security.
“We have no problems with the banks. This is just a problem of them trying to put value on their shares.”
The ruling means the banks could now get a larger say in the running of FOH but it is thought unlikely that they will call for Mr Ecclestone to stand down as F1 chief executive.
And one of the banks concerned, Bayerische Landesbank, has already pledged to act only in the interests of the sport.
The bank said it expected to gain “greater influence” from now on but said collaboration with Mr Ecclestone will be sought.
“We will continue to act in the best interests of the sport and its constituents. This includes the best possible co-operation with all shareholders,” said Dr Gerhard Gribkowsky, a member of Bayerische Landesbank’s management board.
Because of the way the business is set up, the banks would have to launch further legal actions to win control
Bayerische Landesbank, JP Morgan and Lehman Brothers, are creditors to bankrupt German media group Kirch, which had acquired 75% of SLEC, FOH’s parent company.
Mr Ecclestone’s family trust company Bambino Holdings, which has a majority on the FOH board, started to sell stakes in SLEC in 2000.
It currently owns 25% of the company but still controls FOH through a right to appoint subsidiary directors to the board, the court heard.
The banks, known collectively as Speed Investments, challenged the appointment by Bambino of two directors to FOH in 2002 in a move that appeared to be geared towards gaining a majority on the board.
The judge ruled that Mr Ecclestone had “no defence” to their claim that the appointments were “invalid”.
Bambino was refused permission to appeal