Saban works to save Springer deal

Sale looks increasingly unlikely to go through

Haim Saban is due to fly into Berlin this week in a last-ditch attempt to save publishing giant Axel Springer’s $3 billion acquisition of his ProSiebenSat.1 broadcast group.

The deal looks increasingly unlikely to go through after Springer on Monday withdrew its offer to sell leading channel ProSieben to appease antitrust and media regulators.

Springer wants to sell the channel after acquiring the whole group — comprising Sat.1, ProSieben, Kabel Eins, N24 and 9Live. But the two watchdogs want the sale to go through before purchase.

“(This) would result in Axel Springer selling a TV station before it legally owns it,” Springer said. According to the Federal Cartel Office, ownership of the entire group even for a “legal second” would cause unacceptable restrictions of competition.

Saban will meet Springer CEO Mathias Doepfner, who will likely seek to renegotiate a clause in the deal that calls for Springer to pay Saban $1 million per day in default interest, due to late payment from Jan. 23.

Springer said it would review all options and legal avenues to close the deal, which include challenging the watchdogs’ decision in court or seeking a waiver from the federal economics minister.

The cartel office has postponed its final ruling by one week to Jan. 27.

Meanwhile, interested buyers are lining up, in case the Springer deal falls through.

A who’s who list of international media players tipped as possible investors is making the rounds in the local press and includes U.K. investment firm Permira, which recently bought SBS Broadcasting, Disney, Viacom, NBC Universal, Rupert Murdoch, French TV group TF1 and Estee Lauder heir Ronald Lauder.

In related news, ProSiebenSat.1 announced it is going digital and gearing up to launch two new digital channels — a film Web and a comedy Web — in North Rhine-Westphalia and neighboring Hesse.

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