It's come out that Bernie Ecclestone, the chief executive of Formula One, paid three team principals - Eddie Jordan, Alain Prost and the late Tom Walkinshaw - $10 million each to sign the 1998 Concorde Agreement. Concorde being a commercial rights agreement that governs the split of monies generated by the sport between the FIA, the teams and the Formula One Administration. This is yet another blow in Ecclestone's on-going trial over bribery charges to a German banker, although the English billionaire hardly seems concerned over the revelation.
First, a bit of background. You'll recall that Ecclestone has been charged with bribery in Germany, over allegations that he paid a banker to undervalue shares of Formula One during a sale to a group called CVC Capital Partners. German media firm Constantin Medien alleges that this move cost it heavy commissions, which it is now attempting to get back with $62.2 million damages claim. Philip Marshal, the representative for Constantin, brought up the Concorde Agreement payments during cross-examination.
"They were paid to ensure that their teams did sign. Isn't that right?" asked Philip Marshall. Ecclestone simply responded, "Yes," according to a report from The Telegraph.
Marshall then went on to explain Ecclestone's view on bribes - that they aren't illegal unless they're paid to public figures. Marshall emphasized this, asking, "Did you regard the payment of bribes to people who are not public officials as acceptable?"
"This wasn't a bribe that you're referring to," Ecclestone answered. While it seems unlikely that events of 15 years ago will come back to bite Jordan or Prost, the news that Ecclestone isn't above paying people to sign legal documents is an admission that probably isn't good for his legal defense.