Kirch demands Deutsche Bank payment

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COLOGNE, Germany -- Ex-mogul Leo Kirch is demanding €1.4 billion ($1.8 billion) from Deutsche Bank and the bank's former CEO Rolf Breuer in a marathon corporate case sparked by the collapse of rights giant KirchMedia in 2002.

It had previously been speculated that Kirch would be demanding in excess of $1 billion. But the first actual confirmation came in a letter from Kirch to Deutsche Bank that was made public Friday.

Kirch blames Breuer for his company's failure. On Feb. 4, 2002, the then-CEO of Deutsche Bank gave an interview to Bloomberg TV in New York in which he questioned KirchMedia's financial stability. At the time, Deutsche Bank was one of KirchMedia's leading creditors.

Kirch's lawyers argued that Breuer's statement constituted a violation of client confidentiality and that it directly led to KirchMedia's insolvency.

Last year, the German supreme court ruled in Kirch's favor, saying both Deutsche Bank and Breuer were liable for damages (HR 1/25/06). Last summer, Kirch began gathering support among Deutsche Bank shareholders for a class-action suit against Breuer.

Should Detusche Bank and Breuer fail to pay Kirch by the end of January, sources close to the companies say, the Bavarian mogul is threatening to unleash the class action suit.

Deutsche Bank still maintains that Kirch's suit is "groundless" and has refused to pay.
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