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Kirch fight expands

Deposed mogul sues in U.S. after German win

BERLIN — Bankrupt German mogul Leo Kirch filed a lawsuit against Liberty Media and Deutsche Bank in New York on Wednesday, accusing them of conspiring to destroy his vast media empire.

Kirch tasted blood last month when a court in Munich upheld his lawsuit against Deutsche Bank for its role in the bankruptcy of Kirch Media in 2002. That decision could lead to damages of up to e6 billion ($7.5 billion) for Kirch.

Like the German complaint, the U.S. Suit revolves around a TV interview given by the bank’s former topper Rolf Breuer in New York in February 2002 in which he expressed doubt about Kirch’s creditworthiness.

Kirch had been working with New York investment bankers on a plan to float Kirch Media, then owner of Germany’s biggest broadcasting group, ProSiebenSat 1, but was forced to file for bankruptcy protection two months later after it was unable to secure lines of credit.

In the lawsuit, filed in New York’s state Supreme Court, Kirch charges that Liberty and chief exec John Malone, plus Deutsche Bank and Breuer, conspired to derail Kirch’s IPO plans.

At the time, Liberty was seeking to buy Deutsche Telekom’s cable holdings, with access to 10 million households, nearly 60% of all German cable homes. Kirch lawyers allege that Malone and Liberty Media conspired with Deutsche Bank in hopes that a collapse of the Kirch Group would help them gain control over the lucrative cable market.

Kirch lawyer Lawrence Rolnick said there was a clear plan between Deutsche Bank and Liberty Media to cut off financing to Kirch Media and then divvy up the booty.

The complaint “specifically states that there was an active conspiracy to destroy Kirch Group,” added Kirch spokesman Daniel Strechay.

“We allege that, with Dr. Breuer’s statement to Bloomberg, Deutsche Bank and Liberty Media administered the final blow in a well-orchestrated campaign to oust Dr. Kirch and dismantle his empire,” Rolnick said.

A German appellate court last month ruled that Deutsche Bank was accountable for Breuer’s comments, which the court found violated client confidentiality and contributed to Kirch Media’s collapse. Deutsche Bank was one of Kirch Group’s creditors.

Breuer has denied meeting Malone or even speaking with him. Deutsche Bank sources dismissed Kirch’s lawsuit as a maneuver to take his case against Deutsche Bank to U.S. courts.

(The Associated Press and DPA contributed to this report.)

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