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EM.TV brass sets goals

Topper Klatten could sel off Formula One, Jim Henson Co.

BERLIN — New EM.TV topper Werner Klatten pledged at his first shareholders meeting Wednesday to bring the beleaguered kidvidder into profit by 2003 by drastically streamlining operations.

Finance chief Rolf Rickmeyer added that its core businesses like TV tyke content (not including writeoffs from various for-sale holdings) might even be out of the red this year. EM.TV suffered losses of around $1.2 billion last year.

Describing the company as badly structured and unmanageable, Klatten said he was looking at selling off its stake in Formula One motor racing, the 45% holding in the Tele-Munchen Group and Muppets shop the Jim Henson Co.

EM.TV holds a 37% stake in Formula One marketing company SLEC but that will be cut to 17% if media giant the Kirch Group, which holds another 37% in SLEC, cashes in a $1 billion convertible loan it put up for an increased share in the outfit, which is likely to happen.

Formula One automakers, who have been threatening to start their own racing event since Kirch came into the picture, have opened their arms to the new topper.

Klatten emphasized at Wednesday’s meeting in Munich that he would like to see the company more independent from Kirch, which bailed it out earlier this year.

He also stated that his own 25% stake in EM.TV, which he bought from founder and outgoing boss Thomas Haffa last week, was not financed by the media giant. Last week, Klatten dismissed rumors that German automaker BMW had bankrolled his estimated $85 million purchase when it was made public that his sister-in-law is a member of the Quandt family, which owns 47% of the car company.

Haffa was lambasted by angry shareholders after the news of his ankling. A rep of DSW, a German stock-owners watchdog group, called Haffa’s resignation dubious, adding that it was an escape from responsibility.

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