Kirch seeks funds from Deutsche Bank

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MUNICH -- Former German media mogul Leo Kirch wants €1.6 billion ($2.16 billion) from ex-creditor Deutsche Bank for sparking a chain of events that caused the downfall of his empire, a Kirch spokesman told the Munich daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung over the weekend, confirming a report in German newsweekly Der Spiegel last week.

The spokesman said that Kirch's suit would be filed early this week, possibly Monday.

The move has been widely expected for almost a year and a half, since Germany's supreme court the Bundesgerichtshof handed down a decision affirming in principle that Kirch was entitled to damages from Deutsche Bank but would have to sue in order to determine the exact amount.

Instead of suing, Kirch sent a letter to the bank in January of this year, demanding payment of €1.4 billion ($1.89 billion) (HR 1/20). The bank rejected his demands as "groundless."

The current amount includes interest on the damages that Kirch says he suffered when one of his subsidiaries went bankrupt and handed over its considerable stake in German publisher Springer to Deutsche Bank. The bank then sold the shares, which Kirch claims are now worth €1.4 billion.

The case dates back to February 2002, when then-Deutsche Bank head Rolf Breuer cast doubt on the Kirch group's financial stability in an interview on Bloomberg TV. At the time, Deutsche Bank was one of KirchMedia's top creditors. Within weeks, the first Kirch subsidiaries had gone belly-up; the rest of the conglomerate collapsed a few months later.

According to news reports, Deutsche Bank plans an aggressive defense against the lawsuit.
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