Media mogul Leo Kirch is negotiating to buy 10% of Germany’s biggest private TV station, RTL, according to a report Thursday in the German media.Such a purchase would be interpreted as the first action in a long-term takeover bid. RTL director Helmut Thoma took the unconfirmed report in Suddeutsche Zeitung to mean just that. Shareholder Westdeutsche Zeitung publishing house, known as WAZ, put up its 10% for sale last August, but offers — including one from Kirch competitor and current RTL shareholder Bertelsmann — have reportedly been under the asking price of at least 400 million marks ($ 250 million). A February meeting between Kirch and a WAZ board member only now has come to light. Neither the Kirch Group nor WAZ would comment on the report. “If Kirch buys the WAZ 10% and perhaps later other shares,” Thoma said, “then sometime he will suddenly have the majority.” Kirch already directly or indirectly owns shares in the majority of private TV stations in Germany. He is under attack by media authorities on antitrust grounds. For that reason, a direct purchase of 10% RTL shares is unlikely. A front company or partner company, such as the powerful Springer publishing house or Kirch partner Silvio Berlusconi, would seem an option.
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