Setback for Saban

KarstadtQuelle group wins bidding for DSF

BERLIN — A consortium led by German retail giant KarstadtQuelle edged out U.S. billionaire Haim Saban in the 20 million euros ($23 million) acquisition of former Kirch Media sports channel DSF.

The deal, closed Monday and unveiled Tuesday, is a minor setback for Saban, who is taking over Kirch’s broadcasting group, ProSiebenSat 1, and its vast film licensing business.

“We respect the creditor committee’s decision and congratulate KarstadtQuelle and EM.TV on their successful bid,” said Adam Chesnoff, prexy and chief operating officer of Saban Capital Group.

While Saban was offering a million euros more than the KartstadQuelle consortium, creditors of Kirch subsidiary and DSF parent Taurus TV were anxious to close the deal. Unlike Saban, KarstadtQuelle had antitrust approval — one of the deciding factors for its selection.

KarstadtQuelle, Germany’s leading seller of sports goods, with partners Hans-Dieter Cleven, owner of Swiss-German sporting goods manufacturer Voelkl, and license trader EM.TV, plans to leverage merchandising and marketing potential from the channel, which reaches 30 million households, to create lucrative synergies. Although DSF lost $34 million last year on revenue of more than $200 million, the group hopes to reach profitability in two years.

The consortium will form a holding company for the assets, which include Kirch Internet sports platform Sport1. Deal — which will give KarstadtQuelle and EM.TV 39% each and Cleven 22% of the assets — must be approved by Bavarian state media regulators.

This could be the first step in a new direction for EM.TV following restructuring and the sale of major assets at a massive loss, including the Jim Henson Co. and its stake in Formula One motor racing, which cost the company some $650 million.

EM.TV also has taken over former Kirch sports production outfit Plazamedia, which broadcasts lucrative sports events including Formula One and German Bundesliga soccer. EM.TV topper Werner Klatten wants sports merchandising to be the company’s second core business alongside tyke programming, and DSF and Plazamedia will be instrumental to that end.

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