Kirch courts date with Deutsche Bank

Media mogul demanding $2 billion in damages

Six years after the spectacular collapse of his vast media empire, Leo Kirch is heading to court for what could be his final showdown with Deutsche Bank — and a legal decision that could bring him billions.

Germany’s highest court ruled in 2006 that Deutsche Bank was partially responsible for the Kirch Group’s 2002 bankruptcy and was liable for damages, the exact amount to be determined in a separate trial, now set for Munich District Court on Nov. 25.

The 81-year-old media mogul, who has made a major comeback in Germany as the owner of EM.Sport Media and marketer of Bundesliga soccer rights, is demanding e1.27 billion ($2 billion) in damages plus the current stock market price of his former majority stake in ProSiebenSat.1, the pay TV platform he founded.

In a separate lawsuit filed in 2005, Kirch is seeking an extra $3.1 billion as compensation for the loss of other assets, including his majority stake in Formula One racing, which was taken over by creditor banks following the dissolution of his Kirch Group.

Kirch, whose company collapsed under a mountain of debt in 2002, argues that comments made by former Deutsche Bank topper Rolf Breuer caused lenders to refuse him further credit, leading to the insolvency of Kirch Media, the first of several Kirch Group subsidiaries to go under.

The court found Breuer had violated client confidentiality in a February 2002 interview in which he cast doubt on Kirch’s credit-worthiness while his company was struggling with its massive debt.

Sources familiar with Kirch say his battle with Deutsche Bank has more to do with rehabilitating a legacy severely damaged by the insolvency of his company than with the hefty windfall it may bring.

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