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Kinowelt fight for company control

Koelmels make bid, demand investigation

BERLIN — Kinowelt Medien toppers Rainer and Michael Koelmel launched a battle for control of their bankrupt film rights company Monday, demanding a criminal investigation into alleged business irregularities and threats on their lives.

The news comes as creditor banks denied that they greenlit a management buyout announced last week by insolvency administrator and de facto chief exec Wolfgang Ott. In a letter to Ott obtained by Daily Variety, BHF Bank demanded an immediate retraction.

Ott still maintains the buyout has been approved; the move would create Neue Kinowelt Medien, containing Kinowelt’s core distribution, home entertainment and TV licensing divisions. It also would delist Kinowelt from the German stock exchange.

Kinowelt execs described BHF as out of line with creditors and accused it of breaking the confidentiality of the creditor committee.

Rainer Koelmel told Daily Variety argued that it’s not up to the creditor committee but the larger creditor assembly to make the final decision.

The Koelmels are offering their own bid for their company, which went belly up in December. They are backed by local banks Deutsche Kreditbank and Sparkasse Leipzig, German investor MK Beteiligungsgesellschaft and Munich-based producer OpenPictures.

Crime review

They have filed an official request for a criminal investigation into alleged fraudulent transactions between Kinowelt Home Entertainment and E.A.T. Mediengruppe, an Essen-based soft-porn distributor and erotic merchandise company that had been rumored as a potential backer of the management takeover.

In the request to authorities, Michael Koelmel also asserts that he has received two telephone death threats warning him to “stay out of the business.”

Critics accuse the Koelmels of mudslinging in an attempt to regain control of the company they founded 18 years ago.

Jerry Payne, managing director of Kinowelt Home Entertainment, who is one of two execs leading the management buyout, denounced the accusations as “attempts to discredit us in the eyes of the banks and investors. But the attempt has failed.”

He said the new company will launch in coming weeks.

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