Bernie Ecclestone puts Richards Butler in driving seat for Formula 1 ownership fight

Richards Butler has scooped prestigious first-time instructions from Bernie Ecclestone in the ongoing litigation regarding the future ownership of Formula 1 motor racing.

Litigation partner David Warne and Ali Malik QC of 3 Verulam Buildings are advising the Formula 1 head honcho on his latest bout with the banks, which own a 75 per cent stake in the commercial rights to Formula 1.

A source at Richards Butler said the appointment reaffirmed the standing of the firm’s commercial disputes practice following the recent departures of litigation stars Lista Cannon to Fulbright & Jaworski and John Hull to Latham & Watkins.

Richards Butler has been called in following a High Court defeat for Ecclestone’s companies at the end of last year. In that dispute Ecclestone instructed Lovells, with Murray Rosen QC and Nicholas Parfitt of 11 Stone Buildings, and the firm continues to assist with the latest action, which is scheduled for 10 days in May.

The banks – Bayerische Landesbank, Lehman Brothers and JPMorgan Chase – inherited their shareholding when German media group Kirch went bankrupt in 2002. The banks aim to take control of the Formula 1 board. The dispute revolves around a deal Ecclestone cut to gain control of the board in 2002.

White & Case partner Alistair Graham is advising the banks with Elisabeth Jones QC and Nicholas Harrison of Serle Court.

Richards Butler declined to comment. White & Case and Lovells were unavailable for comment.