BERLIN — Former media mogul Leo Kirch has hired legal heavyweight David Boies in his battle against Deutsche Bank and Liberty Media.
Boies takes over Kirch’s U.S. lawsuit against the companies as well as against Liberty topper John Malone and former Deutsche Bank chairman Rolf Breuer. Kirch alleges that they conspired to destroy his media empire.
The appointment ups the ante in the fight and could signal growing confidence in the Kirch camp. The Teutonic tycoon joins an impressive list of clients: Boies repped Vice President Al Gore in his battle for a Florida ballot recount following the 2000 election, led the Justice Dept.’s antitrust case against Microsoft and successfully deflected Gen. William Westmoreland’s libel suit against CBS in 1982.
Kirch is appealing a decision by a U.S. District Court in September, which dismissed his lawsuit on grounds that it failed to provide a valid legal argument.
Kirch won a similar action against Deutsche Bank in Germany last year, when a Munich court ruled the bank was liable for unspecified damages that could reach more than a $1 billion, though Breuer was cleared of personal liability.
Kirch and the insolvent Kirch Group filed suit in New York in January alleging that Liberty, Malone, Breuer and Deutsche Bank investment bankers conspired to undermine Kirch’s plan to float his privately owned Kirch Media by 2004.
Specifically, Kirch accuses Breuer of triggering the collapse of his empire after publicly questioning Kirch’s credit worthiness in a February 2002 interview with Bloomberg TV in New York, two months before Kirch filed for insolvency. (Kirch’s core TV division, ProSiebenSat 1, was eventually picked up by Haim Saban following the group’s disintegration.)
Kirch also alleges that Malone and Liberty conspired with Deutsche Bank in hopes that a collapse of the group would help them gain control of Germany’s lucrative cable market, generating more than $1 billion in investment banking fees and other revenues for Deutsche Bank.
Germany’s antitrust authority blocked Malone’s $5 billion cable bid, however.