Kirch coming apart

Suitors vie for various portions of TV group

BERLIN — German TV group Kirch Media is getting sliced up after all, despite efforts by management to sell the insolvent company as a whole.

German publishers Axel Springer and Heinrich Bauer as well as HypoVereinsbank, meanwhile, are back in the race, and have reportedly made a new €2 billion ($1.96 billion) bid for the group without its sports rights division Kirch Sport. The tender is said to match that of bidding team Sony and Commerzbank.

Two other consortia — billionaire producer Haim Saban and French TV group TF1, and a group of former Kirch Media shareholders — also presented binding bids for Kirch Media earlier this month. The lowest bid was $1.6 billion.

Sports sale on tap

Company’s creditors, which reviewed the offers Wednesday, have all but approved the sale of Kirch Media’s Switzerland-based Kirch Sport, which controls worldwide rights to the 2006 World Cup soccer championship as well as German league soccer. Former topper Leo Kirch and his former deputy CEO Dieter Hahn are competing against a management-led buyout for the unit. Kirch and Hahn have reportedly offered $335 million.

ProSiebenSat 1, Germany’s largest TV broadcasting group, is Kirch Media’s most prized asset. The money-making unit has not been affected by the collapse of its parent company, and its channel Pro7 is a market leader in young viewers. Company also includes three other channels, Sat 1, Kabel 1 and news outlet N24.

Sat-library combo

Kirch Media deputy CEO Fred Kogel predicted last week that a sale of ProSiebenSat 1 together with Kirch Media’s vast film library was the likeliest scenario.

Meanwhile, former Kirch Media shareholder Fininvest, owned by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, is reportedly looking to take Leo Kirch to court. According to German weekly Stern, Fininvest is suing Kirch personally for the damage it suffered from the bankruptcy of Kirch Media. Fininvest, which had a 2.5% stake in Kirch Media, lost nearly $400 million from its investment. Mediaset, another Berlusconi company, owned a further 2.3% stake in Kirch Media. Mediaset has said it would bid on ProSiebenSat 1 if Kirch Media’s creditors agree to sell off individual assets.

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