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Kirch to sue Deutsche, Liberty Media

Published on 15/01/2004

15 January 2004

MUNICH – Lawyers for German media mogul Leo Kirch said Thursday that they are filing suit in New York against Deutsche Bank and the US cable concern Liberty Media for causing the financial collapse of Kirch’s concern KirchGruppe in 2002.

The lawyers said the suit claims a conspiracy by Deutsche Bank and Liberty Media in abetting the insolvency of the Kirch group.

Secret meetings and telephone calls between the two companies were held with the aim of helping Liberty Media gain entry in the German market and of splitting up the Kirch empire, they said. In this, Deutsche Bank stood to gain a stake in the Kirch group’s cable business, they alleged.

The reports about a US lawsuit by Kirch come a month after Kirch won a key Munich court ruling which from the Kirch viewpoint provided a legal basis for him to seek damages from Deutsche Bank.

In the 10 December ruling, the Bavarian State Superior Court ruled that the bank violated its banking secrecy obligations ahead of the collapse of a Kirch company. The verdict upheld a lower court ruling in that Deutsche Bank, as a creditor to the KirchGruppe company, was obliged to uphold banking secrecy regulations.

The case goes back to comments which former Deutsche Bank chairman Rolf Breuer made in an interview in early 2002 raising questions about the creditworthiness of the KirchGruppe.

Those remarks were regarded as ill-timed, coming as they did at a moment when heavily-indebted KirchGruppe was fighting for survival.

Kirch claimed that the interview effectively torpedoed his company’s efforts to raise new credits, hastening the KirchGruppe’s road to insolvency later in 2002.

After the ruling, reports said the 77-year-old Kirch was mulling damage claims against Deutsche Bank amounting to at least EUR six billion.

Subject: German news