DECEMBER 7, 2004
In the words of Mr Justice Park
Mr Justice Park dismissed the arguments of Formula One Holdings in its case against Speed Investments and he did so in a fashion that sent a clear message that the defendants did not have a case at all. The judge said that it was "indisputable" that the effect of the shareholder agreement between the parties was to classify the existing directors with either "A" or "B" status and ruled that the present make-up of the FOH board comprises too many "B" directors. He dismissed the claim from the Bambino Trust (which owns 25% of the shares in SLEC, FOH's holding company) that the shareholder agreement appointed certain "A" directors but not certain "B" directors, calling it "an unmaintainable position".
The second argument was that the classification of certain directors as "B" directors was a mistake and should be corrected. This was described by the Judge as "bordering on the hopeless".
The judge went on to say that Speed Investments has control and that it is therefore open to the company to begin further proceedings to unravel the control that Bambino exercises over the two operating companies: Formula One Administration and Formula One Management. The Judge refused to grant permission to appeal his decision and if Bambino wishes to appeal it will have to seek permission from the Court of Appeal. This must be done within 14 days of the defendant receiving a transcript of the judgement.
The lawyers representing Bambino asked that the effects of the judgement be suspended until its application for permission to appeal had been heard but the judge refused the request.
The Judge said that the defendants did not have any real prospect of successfully defending the claim and so awarded Speed Investments a summary judgment.
Bernie Ecclestone, the man who runs Formula One Administration and Formula One Management, is seemingly unperturbed by the ruling and appears to believe that he will retain control of the business of Formula 1 come what may, thanks to other clauses in the contracts. Presumably these will now have to be examined by the courts. This will certainly delay the outcome of the dispute which will give Ecclestone time to try to break up the alliance between the three banks involved in Speed Investments and win the support of the F1 teams to ensure that even if the banks do win the legal actions he will continue to run the sport in one form or another.
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