More please: Kirch upping the pressure

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Leo Kirch has apparently upped the stakes in his long-running legal struggle with Deutsche Bank.

Kirch creditor sources said Monday that the octogenarian mogul is now demanding €3.7 billion ($5.5 billion) in damages for Deutsche Bank's alleged role in triggering the downfall of his German media empire in 2002.

Kirch is demanding €2.1 billion ($3.1 billion) in compensation for the loss of his controlling stake in German broadcaster ProSiebenSat.1 and an additional €1.6 billion ($2.4 billion) for the shares in publisher Axel Springer, which he was forced to sell when his empire collapsed.

The move is being seen by most analysts here as an attempt by Kirch to force Deutsche Bank into a settlement. Deutsche Bank reportedly made Kirch an offer late last year, but the figure was too low for the Bavarian mogul.

Kirch is hungry for capital as he is still trying to close a €3 billion ($4.5 billion) deal to market the 2009-15 seasons of Germany's Bundesliga soccer matches.

The Kirch lawsuit is focused on comments then-Deutsche Bank CEO Rolf Breuer made to Bloomberg TV in 2002, questioning Kirch's creditworthiness.

Kirch was unable to persuade creditors to roll over massive loans and, within weeks of Breuer's interview, his media conglomerate was on the skids.

In 2006, Germany's supreme court upheld a lower court judgment that Deutsche Bank had violated client confidentiality laws and that Kirch must be compensated. It is now up to Munich's district court to decide on a figure.

Deutsche Bank declined comment Monday.
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