Saban sorts team to buy Kirch

Mediaset out of consortium

BERLIN — Haim Saban is in talks with Euro and U.S. investors, including private equity firms Blackstone and Thomas H. Lee, about joining his consortium taking over bankrupt TV giant Kirch Media. But the billionaire producer has ruled out partnering with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset.

The final makeup of Saban’s consortium, which is not expected for another month, will include three to five partners.

French TV group TF1 will be the only other media player in the group. The Gallic broadcaster said last week that it plans to invest up to $165 million for some 10% of the holding being created to buy the assets, which include a vast film library and licensing business.

Teutonic touch

Deal is expected to close in June. If approved by Kirch creditors and state regulators, it will usher in Hollywood’s first industryite to play a major role in Germany’s TV market.

Mediaset said last week that it had been approached by Saban about buying a stake in ProSiebenSat 1 but rejected the offer.

However, a Saban spokesman denied this, saying, “Saban is not in talks with Mediaset and Mediaset will not be part of the consortium.”

“Saban wants to retain control of the company,” said one insider. “That would be difficult with Mediaset as they also want to control things.”

Sizing up the bill

Saban is expected to finance $1.15 billion for the assets, with some $770 million in debt transferred to the new film library. A possible offer to buy out ProSieben minority shareholders could mean $440 million more, while other costs could include the purchase of a remaining 16.5% stake in ProSiebenSat 1 owned by KirchMedia, a hefty capital injection for the broadcaster and a possible takeover bid for Kirch sports channel DSF.

Meanwhile, TV license trader EM.TV said Tuesday that it had reached an agreement with Kirch Media to buy its sports production unit Plazamedia. The deal remains subject to the successful takeover of DSF by the KarstadtQuelle consortium, which EM.TV plans to join.

With the broadcasting of sports events such as Formula One motor-racing and German Bundesliga soccer, Plazamedia has become Germany’s biggest sports production company.

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