BERLIN — U.S. billionaire Haim Saban is reportedly threatening legal action against bankrupt Teuton TV giant Kirch Media’s management and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has thrown his hat into the ring — again.
Saban, who is partnering with French TV group TF1, is considering a lawsuit against Kirch’s interim management if his 2 billion euro ($2.17 billion) offer for the company isn’t seriously reviewed, according to German weekly Der Spiegel, which also said Berlusconi’s Mediaset had made a new bid of $2.5 billion.
Berlusconi, a former Kirch Media shareholder, was among the initial bidders last year but faced increasing pressure from German and European politicians to stave off a grab for the broadcasting group while in political power.
German publisher Heinrich Bauer, meanwhile, has accelerated its efforts to wrap up the acquisition of Kirch’s assets, including multi-channel broadcasting group ProSiebenSat.1 and its vast film library.
Kirch creditors appear to have shown some interest in Saban’s plan: although his offer is said to match Bauer’s, Saban is prepared to inject some $325 million into the library. Bauer had initially hoped to cover the debt attached to the film stockpile but has since agreed to invest additional cash into the library.
Bauer has agreed to buy the Kirch assets for some $2.17 billion, including $760 million for ProSiebenSat.1 and part of the $1.4 billion in debt attached to the library. Negotiations had also snagged on the details of how to structure the new ownership of the library, which is to be a separate holding owned by Bauer and the creditor banks.
In related news, Swiss company Infront, which acquired Kirch Media’ sports rights assets last year, looks set to make an offer for the Kirch-owned sports weblet DSF.
The money-losing TV channel, which is not part of ProSiebenSat.1, has also pricked the interest of New York-based private equity firm Hudson Investment Group and Munich kidvidder EM.TV.
Infront, which is owned by former Adidas topper Robert Louis-Dreyfuss and former German soccer player Guenter Netzer, may have a good shot at getting the channel. The company holds a wide array of sports rights, including the soccer World Cup and German soccer, and bidding rival kidvidder EM.TV looks to be out of the picture.
German cartel authorities are examining alleged links between former Kirch topper Leo Kirch and last year’s acquisition of EM.TV by Werner Klatten. As a result, Kirch Media has canceled negotiations with the kidvidder for DSF.