F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone settles bribery case for $100 million

Ecclestone long has run the international motor-racing series and has an estimated net worth of $4.2 billion

A bribery case against Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone was dropped Tuesday after a German court agreed to accept a $100-million payment from the billionaire.

The settlement came after more than three months of evidence and testimony at the Munich state court, where the 83-year-old Ecclestone had denied any wrongdoing in the bribery case.

"The court did not consider a conviction overwhelmingly likely," the Associated Press quoted court spokeswoman Andrea Titz as saying.

She also said the settlement meant "there was no conclusion on guilt or innocence of the defendant. He is leaving this courtroom a free man."

Known in Formula One circles as "Supremo," Ecclestone long has run the international motor-racing series and has an estimated net worth of $4.2 billion, according to Forbes.

In mid-2013, he was indicted in connection with $45 million Ecclestone paid in 2006-07 to a banker who was helping with the sale of an ownership stake in Formula One.

The banker, Gerhard Gribkowsky, was convicted and sentenced to prison in connection with the events. Ecclestone faced up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

During Gribkowsky's trial, Ecclestone acknowledged making the payment but said he was pressured to do so and Ecclestone's lawyers maintained that "the alleged bribery did not happen."

Before the trial got underway in April, Ecclestone said he would continue to run the day-to-day affairs of Formula One but stepped down as a board member of the sport's holding company, meaning he ceded all decision-making powers to Formula One's management board pending the trial's outcome.

As he left the court Tuesday, Ecclestone said to reporters he was off "to take care of Formula One," AP reported.

During Ecclestone's trial, there was unconfirmed speculation that Formula One might become the target of a possible takeover attempt by various suitors who were interested in buying all or part of the series.

The speculation also included suggestions that any offers might not materialize until Ecclestone's bribery case had concluded.

Follow @PeltzLATimes for more motor racing news

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times