MAURICE HAMILTON

What goes round, comes round


Formula One chief executive Bernie Ecclestone was on Tuesday formally accused for the first time of paying $44 million (£27.3 million) in bribes to a German banker relating to the last sale of the sport in 2006. - DAILY TELEGRAPH 20 July 2011

As soon as the House of Commons Select Committee had finished dealing with Rupert Murdoch and his News International executives, MPs stayed on to quiz Bernard Ecclestone, F1 Commercial Rights Holder.

Chairman: Mr. Ecclestone, good of you to give up your time.

Mr. E: We do what we can. While I'm here, be glad to assist any of your MPs who need help with their expenses.

MP: Yes, thank you for that Mr. Ecclestone. Moving on....can you tell us who owns F1?

Mr. E: I do.

MP: All of it?

Mr. E: Well, most of it, except for the trams serving the race in Melbourne and the BRDC Clubhouse, but we're working on that.

MP: The point I'm getting at, Mr. Ecclestone, is that you appear to be selling bits of it to various parties and buying back those same bits for half the price.

Mr. E: That's rubbish. I'd never buy anything for less than 75 per cent profit.

MP: That's as maybe, but can you explain who owns the EasyMoney Trust, to whom you sold 95 per cent of the F1 share holding.

Mr. E: It's part-owned by Bernische Bank and BCE TV.

MP: Where are these companies based, and who owns them?

Mr. E: Based in Swindle Street, Isle of Dogs. They're part-owned by Skinflint Securities and Robbinemblind International.

MP: And do you not own these, er, institutions, Mr. Ecclestone?

Mr. E: I did once, but I moved them on in exchange for a 1936 Rolls Royce Phantom and a ship load of sand.

MP: And where is that sand now?

Mr. E: Sold it to Bahrain. Good quality stuff it was, not like the rubbish they have out there.

MP: But did you not then buy back the sand once the Grand Prix was cancelled?

Mr. E: I helped them out, yes. We do what we can.

MP: How much did you pay?

Mr. E: They paid me to take it away. Do any of your MPs need some sand for house extensions and moats and stuff?

MP: I think we're getting off the point here.

Mr. E: No we're not. I'll do a job lot. For cash.

MP: But Mr. Ecclestone, do you not still own EasyMoney Trust?

Mr. E: Can't say for sure. I'm very humble and I've got 53,000 employees around the world, so I can't know everything.

MP: With respect, Mr. Ecclestone, that was more or less what Mr. Rupert Murdoch said earlier today in this very room.

Mr. E: Did he? It's my line. He's been hacking my phone. Can't trust anyone these days.

MP: Mr. Ecclestone, I'll get straight to the point. It's been alleged that you paid a bribe to the chief executive of Charlatan Venture Con Partners to help facilitate an artificially high offer for EasyMoney Trust.

Mr. E: I lent him a couple of quid to pay his landing charge at Biggin Hill.

MP: And who owns Biggin Hill, Mr. Ecclestone?

Mr. E: I do.

MP: Did you not think a charge of £27.3m to be rather excessive?

Mr. E: It was a big plane. And the carpets inside were dirty. I had them cleaned; that was part of the fee.

MP: Cleaned by whom?

Mr. E: The Boracic Lint Corporation.

MP: Don't tell me... you own that too?

Mr. E: Might do. Why? D'you want a competitive quote to clean the inside of the London apartments you're not supposed to have?

MP: Am I right in saying you accepted the Boracic Lint Corporation as part of a contra deal with Oldman Lacks in return for persuading the bank to buy shares in the Silverstone cafe on the grounds that it was Michelin-rated?

Mr. E: It was a misunderstanding. Oldman were upset when they discovered the rating referred to the cafe being popular with French tyre fitters. I had to help them out. We do what we can.

MP: So, who owns the cafe now?

Mr. E: I do. Through an offshore company.

MP: And where is this off-shore company?

Mr. E: Isle of Dogs.

MP: But that's not off-shore in the strictest sense.

Mr. E: It is.

MP: And why is that, Mr. Ecclestone?

Mr. E: Because I own it. Bought it for cash from a retired Metropolitan Police superintendent. Helped him out. Was down to his last back-hander. We do what we can.

MP: Who told you it was for sale?

Mr. E: Saw an ad in the News of the World.

MP: You mean, that now defunct publication owned by News Corporation who, I believe, were making a bid for F1. Which you own.

Mr. E: If you say so. It's a burden. But we do what we can.

Chairman: Thank you, Mr. Ecclestone. Glad that's been cleared up.

Maurice Hamilton , a freelance motor sport writer and broadcaster since 1977, is the author of more than twenty books and contributes to websites and magazines worldwide.

His weekly column for Grandprix.com was Highly Commended in the 2011 Newspress New Media Awards.

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