Photo: Belinda Jiao (Reuters)
Through a bit of dumb luck in the late 1970s, former Brabham team owner Bernard Charles Ecclestone became a very wealthy man. It would seem that over the last 18 years, the 92-year-old Mr. Ecclestone has failed to disclose a significant portion of his wealth, including hundreds of millions he holds in a trust in Singapore.
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After initially pleading not guilty and facing court proceedings next month, Ecclestone changed his plea today to a guilty one. As part of the deal, he faces 17 months in prison—which has been suspended due to his age and health—and will pay 652 million pounds to His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs tax authority.
From The New York Times:
[Eccelstone] “bitterly regrets the events that led to this criminal trial,” his lawyer Christine Montgomery said in court.
The judge, Simon Bryan, said Mr. Ecclestone’s offense was “so serious that neither a fine or a community order would be appropriate.”
If Mr. Ecclestone keeps his record clean for two years, he will not serve the sentence at all.
As chief negotiator for the Formula One Constructors Association, Ecclestone developed and then sold the television rights for all F1 races, and through the Concorde Agreement between teams and the FIA, gave his companies control over the admin and logistics of setting up each Grand Prix. By selling off rights that he didn’t explicitly own, Ecclestone grew to become among the wealthiest men in the United Kingdom.
Ecclestone is estimated to be worth around 2.5 billion pounds, meaning the tax bill is nearly 20% of his holdings. He sold his shares of Formula One Group in 2015 to CVC Capital Partners and was removed from his position as chief executive of the company on January 23, 2017, following the takeover by current owner and promotor Liberty Media in 2016.
Ecclestone turns 93 later this month.