Springer plans leap

German pub circles Saban's ProSieben stake

BERLIN — Publishing giant Axel Springer is close to taking over Haim Saban’s ProSiebenSat 1 broadcast group, according to sources who said the pair are thrashing out a deal to appease Germany’s tough antitrust office.

The marriage would make Berlin-based Springer — Germany’s biggest publishing company — the country’s biggest commercial TV player, likely to raise the cartel watchdog hackles.

Springer, which owns a 12% stake in the group, and Saban’s investment consortium are said to be ironing out the antitrust issues. But Springer will have to make concessions. Breaking up the five-channel group and selling one or more of the webs might be a solution.

While neither Springer nor Saban will comment, according to local reports, Springer is offering around E1.4 billion ($1.7 billion) to raise its stake in the broadcaster to more than 50%.

Saban has repeatedly said he wants to keep his stake in ProSiebenSat 1. However, local observers expect him to sell along with the equity investment partners who bankrolled his takeover of the group in 2003.

Saban’s consortium, which includes Hellman & Friedman, Bain Capital and Thomas H. Lee, picked up ProSiebenSat 1 for around $1.3 billion after the ’02 bankruptcy of former parent Kirch Media. Together they own 88% of the broadcast group through their P7S1 Holding.

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