Kirch probe eyes banker

Breuer casted doubts on co.'s credit

BERLIN — German state prosecutors are probing former Deutsche Bank topper Rolf Breuer’s role in last year’s collapse of media giant Kirch Group, the biggest corporate meltdown in Germany since World War II.

In a February 2002 interview, Breuer expressed doubts about the company’s creditworthiness — comments Kirch lawyers called “the death sentence for the Kirch Group.” Other creditors withdrew lines of finance and the group filed for insolvency two months later.

Kirch topper Leo Kirch won a lawsuit against Breuer in February after a court agreed the comments contributed to the Kirch Group’s bankruptcy.

The ruling did not establish the amount of compensation. The former mogul, who accused Breuer and Deutsche Bank of violating client confidentiality, is seeking $116 million in damages. Breuer and the bank are appealing.

The Frankfurt prosecutor’s office launched its investigation against Breuer at the behest of a regional court following Kirch’s lawsuit. Prosecutors declined to take up the case last year, saying the substance of Breuer’s comments had been widely reported in the media before the interview.

Like most of Germany’s leading banks, Deutsche Bank was one of Kirch’s major creditors.

U.S. producer Haim Saban is taking over the remnants of the Kirch empire.

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