Formula 1 commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone is prepared to go to court to fight a claim from German bank BayernLB over a $516 million payment it is seeking.
The state-owned Bavarian bank has approached Ecclestone's legal advisors in Germany seeking compensation for an alleged loss in earnings it believes it suffered over the sale of F1 to private equity company CVC in 2006. It was that sale that has already been subject to one court case, with its former risk assessment officer Gerhard Gribkowsky jailed for eight and a half years for tax evasion, bribery and a breach of fiduciary duty, amid questions about a payment Ecclestone made to him for ensuring the sale went through.
BayernLB believes the sale to CVC was under-valued as a result of the influence of Ecclestone's payment, which is why it is seeking the money back. Ecclestone is not prepared to settle over the matter, however, so says he will take the issue to court if needed.
"Absolutely," he was quoted as saying by Britain's Press Association. "I've been blackmailed twice. I don't want it to be a third time.
"But there's nothing to worry about. I'm not worried. I'm aggravated with the nonsense I'm being put through for all this. I sold the shares for the bank. It was something they couldn't sell. They had six people look at it and wouldn't buy. I got them out of trouble and now I'm in trouble. Life is like that sometimes."
Ecclestone has long insisted that the payment to Gribkowsky was made because he had been threatened with having his affairs reported to the British tax authorities, which would have resulted in a lengthy investigation.
In the wake of the Gribkowsky case, German prosecutors are still weighing up whether or not to investigate Ecclestone further. There has even been talk that he could be charged over the matter, and sent to jail if found guilty.
Asked in India if there was a chance of that happening, Ecclestone said: "I hope not. I really hope not. I wouldn't complain about German prisons, but I'd rather not be in one anywhere, to be honest."