Rights expert stopped from working for tycoon

A squall whipped up by pubcaster ARD could capsize born-again media tycoon Leo Kirch’s plan to market rights to top league soccer in Germany.

Kirch inked with the German Football League last week to handle Bundesliga rights from 2009-15 in a deal worth E3 billion ($4.2 billion).

As part of his ambitious plans to get back into business following the spectacular collapse of his vast media empire five years ago, Kirch tapped Dagmar Brandenstein, head of ARD and ZDF’s joint sports rights company Sport A, to oversee soccer rights sales for his new rights company, Sirius.

However, Brandenstein, who landed rights for the 2006, 2010 and 2014 World Cup soccer tourneys for ARD and ZDF, is contractually blocked from working for a competing company until June — too late for her to head Bundesliga sales for Sirius.

ARD looks set to play hardball with Kirch and its former exec. Thomas Gruber, who oversees sports rights for the pubcaster, has said he sees no reason to release Brandenstein from her contract early.

There’s another cloud hovering on the horizon. To secure the deal with the German Football League, Kirch needs a bank to guarantee the $4.2 billion in revenue.

A slew of German banks was badly burned when the Kirch Group collapsed under a mountain of debt in 2002, and while the Commerzbank is reportedly close to backing the venture and is reviewing the plan, it has yet to sign on, leaving the ambitious enterprise anything but a done deal.

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