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Kirch bidders switch partners

Commerzbank leaves Col, joins Lehman Bros.

COLOGNE — Coalition partners bidding for the assets of fallen German broadcast giant Kirch Media were still shifting Thursday as management prepped a list of two bids.

Commerzbank has cut its ties to consortium partner Columbia TriStar, which is now expected to join a bid mounted by German publishers Heinrich Bauer, Axel Springer and HypoVereinsbank.

A Commerzbank spokeswoman said the bank was “more interested in a co-operation with investment bank Lehman Brothers and their allies,” which are Kirch Media shareholders Saudi prince Al Waleed bin Talal and German retailer Rewe.

She suggested the new partners had targets closer to that of Commerzbank, but refused to comment on prior differences of opinion between the bank and the studio.

On Wednesday, Kirch Media managing director Hans-Joachim Ziems said the other consortium in the running was French web TF1 and U.S. entrepreneur Haim Saban. He said that the offers were comparable, in the $2 billion range.

The bids cover Kirch’s TV company ProSiebenSat.1 and film rights library.

The sports rights, which include the German Bundesliga league and the World Cup 2006, are held by the Swiss-based Kirch Sport unit that was the subject of a management buyout Thursday, led by former Kirch Sport employee Guenter Netzer and former Adidas head Robert Louis-Dreyfus. No price for the buyout was revealed.

The news is a blow to former Kirch topper Leo Kirch and his one-time deputy CEO Dieter Hahn, who had been vying for the unit and had reportedly made a $335 million bid.

(Liza Klaussmann in Paris contributed to this report).

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