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Report: Ecclestone faces bribery probe

Bernie Ecclestone
Bernie Ecclestone (center) poses during the "Formula 1" book launch in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
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Formula One president and CEO Bernie Ecclestone could be forced from the sport he’s controlled for 40 years due a criminal inquiry and lawsuit linked to a bribery scandal, British newspaper The Independent reported Friday night.

Ecclestone, 82, is under investigation in Germany over GG Consulting. That company, set up by German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky, received $44 million from Ecclestone, money that allegedly was used to ensure the bank would sell its stake in F1 to CVC Capital, the report said.

CVC Capital is a London-based private equity firm that controls a large percentage of F1 and has agreed to keep Ecclestone in charge.

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The newspaper reported that German prosecutors are deciding whether to charge Ecclestone. There also is a separate lawsuit filed in New York over the same allegations.

Ecclestone said he was "absolutely not guilty" of paying a bribe to Gribkowsky, or of "shaking him down.”

He also told The Independent he had no plans to retire, although he hinted there should be a succession plan in place.

"One day, I'm not going to be there and one of the biggest problems is I've got really, really good relationships with the race promoters,” Ecclestone said before this weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix.

“A few of them said to me, 'If you're not there, we're not there.' That's what the danger is. They feel that they trust me and wouldn't want to let me down. That's probably a very important issue. I think about retiring, but I'm not going to do it. What would I do?"

CVC Capital declined comment, according to The Independent.

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