Duo wants to save ISMM from bankruptcy, stop Kirch

BERLIN — RTL Group and Vivendi Universal are reportedly looking to save Swiss sports-marketer ISMM from bankruptcy and stop the Kirch Group from landing worldwide rights to the next two World Cup championships.

RTL and Vivendi U are in talks to pool their sports rights-activities and are reportedly eyeing ISMM, whose subsid ISL owns international rights to the games in Japan and South Korea in ’02, as well as Germany’s ’06 matches.

According to the Financial Times Deutschland, the two groups would include ISMM in their new joint subsid. Company also reportedly has an option for the rights to the 2010 World Cup.

Death-bed watch

The Munich-based Kirch, however, has an option to acquire ISMM’s rights if that company were officially to go belly up. Kirch paid around $650 million for European rights to the World Cup; obtaining ISMM’s additional world rights (with the exception of the U.S.) would reportedly cost Kirch another $650 million.

ISMM has confirmed that it is in talks with “significant investors,” although it did not mention them by name. Company paid DM2.8 billion ($1.3 billion) for rights to the 2002 and 2006 World Cups. ISMM reported losses last year of around $350 million.

RTL and Vivendi U are keen to set up their own sports-rights outfit to counter Kirch’s powerful presence in athletics programming. Landing the lucrative World Cup rights would make the joint company a viable rival to the Munich media powerhouse.

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