Kirch may sell Springer

40% stake worth over $1 bil

BERLIN — Bavarian media magnate Leo Kirch is considering selling his 40% share in German publishing house Axel Springer Verlag, Berlin daily Berliner Zeitung reported in its Friday edition.

According to the paper, Germany’s largest bank Deutsche Bank has agreed to take over Kirch liabilities of more than $564 million from the Bankgesellschaft Berlin.

Kirch has come under heavy pressure since the European Commission blocked his proposed pay-TV merger with media giant CLT-Ufa on Wednesday. CLT-Ufa was to have financed half of the losses accumulated by Kirch’s failed digital pay-TV web DF1, as well as a portion of Kirch’s substantial commitments made to Hollywood studios for pay-TV output deals.

Kirch will apparently continue to use his Springer share – which has an estimated market value of over $1.13 billion – as collateral.

Kirch reportedly switched banks because Bankgesellschaft Berlin refused to grant him further credit pending the outcome of a tax evasion investigation. Deutsche Bank accepted Kirch as a client in the expectation of overseeing the sale of the Springer shares, the paper claims.

The Kirch Group denies having any interest in selling the Springer stake. Neither Springer nor the Deutsche Bank was prepared to comment on the alleged transaction on Friday.