Double thumbs up for Kirch: soccer plan, Constantin takeover OK'd


Last week was a good one for Leo Kirch.

Two key decisions have brought the octogenarian mogul's dreams of a grand return to the international media scene closer to reality.

One was from the German Cartel office, which approved, in principle, Kirch's plans to market the rights to Germany's Bundesliga soccer league.

Details still have to be worked out, but it looks as if Kirch soon will start to collect on the €3 billion ($4.8 billion) he put up to secure rights to the 2009-15 Bundesliga seasons. Kirch could reap a windfall from such new buyers as cable groups KDG and Unitymedia, which are hungry for soccer rights to sweeten their premium offerings.

The other decision came from the board of Munich film giant Constantin. Germany's largest indie distributor and producers of films including "Downfall" and, through subsidy Impact Pictures, the "Resident Evil" franchise gave the thumbs up to Kirch's takeover bid. It would see Kirch pay as much as €233 million ($370 million) for Constantin.

But Constantin is just a pawn in Kirch's larger plan to merge EM with Constantin's Swiss parent company Highlight. If the takeover goes through, Highlight would buy back the Constantin stock from Kirch at cost.

Kirch, who through EM already holds 37.6% of Highlight, then could go ahead and merge the Swiss and German firms to create one of Europe's largest sports and film rights groups. (partialdiff)