Report: Lawsuit against Ecclestone dismissed in N.Y. Supreme Court

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A $650 million lawsuit against Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone has been dismissed in New York Supreme Court according to a report from Autoweek‘s Christian Sylt.

In November of 2012, American group Bluewaters Communications Holdings filed the suit, arguing that it should have been sold the 47 percent stake in F1 that wound up going to private equity firm CVC in 2006.

Ecclestone faces charges of bribery over a $44 million payment to German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky, but while he’s admitted to making a payment in separate legal proceedings, he’s said that he did it because Gribkowsky was threatening to make allegations regarding his tax affairs.

Bluewaters states that it was the highest bidder for the aforementioned stake, noting that it was ready to pay an additional 10 percent above any legitimate offer from a potential buyer.

But Sylt reports that a justice of the New York Supreme Court, Eileen Bransten, has ruled against them, emphasizing that the claims involved in the lawsuit took place in Europe and that CVC’s own offer for the stake stated that it was governed by English law and thus, all claims coming out of it would be dealt with in English courts.

Said Bransten, according to Sylt: “…This action is not about a lost business venture in New York, but rather on allegations that an English citizen bribed a German citizen to compel a German bank to sell its interest in a Jersey company to an English company rather than another Jersey company.”

To be clear, Bransten does not appear to be referencing New Jersey. Sylt writes that Bluewaters was based on the island of Jersey, off the coast of England, at the time it made its offer for the F1 stake.

Ecclestone may have dodged a bullet in the U.S., but the British billionaire needs to dodge a few more in the months ahead. He recently stepped down from the board of directors for F1’s parent company ahead of his German bribery trial in April (although he will continue to run day-to-day operations).

Additionally, German media firm Constantin Medien – a former stakeholder in F1 – sued him last fall in London for more than $100 million, alleging that Ecclestone’s sale to CVC undervalued the property and lost them money in the process.

Optimism abounds with new INDYCAR media partnership

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Wednesday morning’s announcement that NBC Sports Group will become the exclusive home to the Verizon IndyCar Series via TV, digital, streaming, and direct-to-consumer rights was the conclusion of a long and thorough process to finalize a media partnership that can build on the recent growth of the Verizon IndyCar Series.

And CEO of Hulman & Company Mark Miles believes the final outcome is one everyone can be happy about.

“We’re delighted by every aspect of this announcement today and these arrangements,” Miles asserted in a media teleconference on Wednesday, also making note of a number of highlights about the new media package. “The increase in broadcast, the number of races on broadcast, is really important to the continued growth of the series. The continuity with one media partner who is committed to the sport and to INDYCAR, who can help promote from race to race to race to race throughout the season is important. Having our first product, if you will, our first offering to fans in the direct-to-consumer channel is important to us.”

Miles added, “It met our objectives of increasing the exposure of the sport, increasing the promotion of the sport, and getting us into the over-the-top (streaming) market. We couldn’t be more pleased.”

MORE: NBC Sports Group, INDYCAR partner on new TV and digital rights agreement starting in 2019

John Miller, president of programing for NBC Sports and NBCSN, echoed Miles’ enthusiasm and noted that INDYCAR viewership on NBCSN has grown substantially in recent years, and this new and enhanced partnership, which will feature the 103rd Indianapolis 500 broadcast on NBC in 2019, will build upon that.

“From the NBC perspective, we’ve seen the growth of IndyCar on our cable network NBCSN. We’ve had sustained growth each of the past several years. So the opportunity to have the entire series was very important to us. Of course, to be able to do the crown jewel, the Indy 500 on NBC, really puts the icing on the cake for us and makes our championship season portfolio even stronger,” Miller said.

James Hinchcliffe, driver of the No. 5 Arrow Electronics Honda for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, added that this will also help the individual drivers grow their brands and attract more sponsorship opportunities.

“As drivers, we’re out there risking our lives to put on a good show,” Hinchcliffe said. “The more people that get to see it, get entertained by it, the better it is for us. As athletes, we’re all individual brands in and of ourselves. Getting ourselves in front of more people, it raises our value to our current partners and potential partners. From every element, this is a huge win across the board.”

The sponsorship angle is a critical side-piece to the new media contract, especially in light of several new sponorship announcements for a number of IndyCar teams as well as IndyCar’s ongoing effort to find a new title sponsor for the series in 2019.

Miles further emphasized that new media partnership will do a lot to serve the business of the teams, drivers, and the series in regards to sponsorship.

“I think it’s important to the entirety of the IndyCar ecosystem,” Miles noted. “For the series itself, at some point we should talk about our sponsorship effort, how we think they’re going to be benefited with this relationship. James earlier talked about our drivers or athletes, and they are individual brands. They’ll get more exposure. That will be good for them.

“We earlier this morning spoke to our team owners. They’re enthusiastic about it as it gives them more to say in the marketplace, more value. Certainly that will be true for our promoters of the races as well.”

A few highlights of the partnership are below.

  • Eight races will be broadcast on NBC, including the Indianapolis 500. The remaining races will be broadcast on NBCSN.
  • Qualifying and practice for all events will also be available live, either through NBC, NBCSN,, the NBC Sports App, or NBC Sports Gold an over-the-top streaming service offered by NBC.
  • NBC Sports Gold will also feature extra content to further supplement IndyCar coverage such as archived races and full event replays. Further information about that content will be revealed in the coming months.
  • Details about international coverage are pending.
  • NBC Sports Gold will also do a handful of exclusive live broadcasts for practice and qualifying sessions that are not televised.
  • NBC Sports Gold will do live broadcasts for all Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires races. More details about coverage for the Indy Lights and Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires series will come at a later date.