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Publisher plans suit against Kirch

Springer pushes legal claim to nab bankruptcy assets

COLOGNE — Publisher Axel Springer said it will file a lawsuit against Kirch Media in a Munich court in an attempt to collect nearly half a billion dollars.

The legal move is the consequence of a put option on Springer’s 11.5% stake in Kirch Media’s TV station unit ProSiebenSat 1, which Springer chief Matthias Doepfner decided to execute in January.

Since Kirch Media failed to return the €767 million ($692 million) Springer paid for the stake by the April 30 deadline, Springer will be asking for damages of $450 million, resulting from the difference of the original price and the stake’s current value, a spokeswoman explained.

“We are realistic about Kirch’s present financial situation, but we cannot pretend nothing has happened, so we need to take legal moves on behalf of our shareholders,” she said.

Securing share of assets

While Kirch Media’s insolvency administrator earlier had called Springer’s claim worthless, Springer’s spokeswoman maintained that the legal claim will at least secure its share from the bankruptcy assets.

Springer’s shareholders include Kirch Beteiligungs, the Kirch unit not threatened by insolvency so far, which holds a 40% stake in the publisher.

Earlier this week, Kirch assigned Commerzbank to handle the sale of the Springer stake. Ironically, it was Springer’s decision to execute the put option that triggered the avalanche of insolvency at Kirch Media.