PRO 7 GOING PUBLIC

In an attempt to put to rest allegations that the network is secretly controlled by TV kingpin Leo Kirch, PRO 7 is planning to go public.

Shares in tightly held PRO 7 are split among three investors: German businessman Gerhard Ackermanns (49.5%), Kirch’s son Thomas (47.5%) and PRO 7 Managing Director Georg Kofler, who holds 3%.

That father-son connection has long prompted criticism that the Kirch partriarch effectively steers the web, and increasingly, that situation is creating regulatory hassles for PRO 7.

Already this year, PRO 7 was denied a license to launch Kabel Plus, a niche channel skewed toward fortysomethings, because regulators saw Kirch’s hand behind the project. PRO 7 was recently fined $54,000 for running trailers for R-rated movies during the day, in violation of child protection laws.

Furthermore, PRO 7’s license expires in November and the booming group needs to take the offensive now, before critics try to block a sweet 10-year renewal.

At a news conference scheduled for July 25 to release figures on the group’s performance in fiscal 1994, Kofler plans to announce management’s intention to turn PRO 7 into a joint stock company – the first time a network will have chosen to do so in Germany. Though the shareholders will remain the same at first, a public stock offering could come as early as next year.

Such a move would submit the company to the highest degree of public scrutiny. Corporate disclosure requirements are the strictest for a joint stock company, or AG (Aktiengesellschaft).

Though no value has yet been put on the company, it is expected to report 1994 profits of more than DM100 million ($72 million) on gross revenues of $863 million.

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