Kirch payout ruling postponed

Settlement delayed until March 31

BERLIN — A ruling on the payout that media mogul Leo Kirch will receive in his long-running $4.5 billion legal dispute with Deutsche Bank was postponed by a Munich court until March 31.

Kirch is suing the bank and its former CEO Rolf Breuer for damages in connection with the 2002 collapse of his media empire.

In 2006, Germany’s highest court sided with Kirch, finding that Breuer had violated client confidentiality in a TV interview in which he cast doubt on Kirch’s credit-worthiness while his company was struggling under a mountain of debt. This caused lenders to refuse further credit and lead to what was then Germany’s biggest financial collapse.

The court ruled the bank was liable for damages and the amount was determined in a separate trial, held in November, which was due to rule on Monday

Kirch, 82, has since made a major comeback as the biggest single shareholder of Constantin Media, a group created by the merger of sports rights giant EM.Sport, Swiss media company Highlight Communications and producer-distrib Constantin Film.

However, a large Kirch payout now will be a major blow to Deutsche Bank.

One of the few German banks that has rejected government aid during the financial crisis, it posted a net loss of $6.1 billion last year (compared with a profit of $1.2 billion in 2007).

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