Kirch gets U.S. hedge fund backing


BERLIN -- One-time media mogul Leo Kirch is getting backing from New Jersey hedge fund MarCap in his bid to make another comeback.

According to a report in German business daily Handelsblatt, MarCap has boosted its stake in EM.Sport Media and Highlight Communications, two sports rights groups in which Kirch holds a significant stake. According to MarCap president and CEO David Marcus, the company now holds just over 9% of Highlight and more than 5% of EM.Sport Media.

That cash injection should help Kirch as he tries to refinance the 3 billion euros ($4.4 billion) deal he recently signed to market rights to Germany's top soccer league, the Bundesliga. Kirch and his Sirus rights company will act as middlemen, selling on the Bundesliga rights for the 2009-2015 seasons.

"In the communications industry there is a huge demand for soccer, which allows for many creative possibilities in rights exploitation," Marcus is quoted in the Handelsblatt, explaining the reason for MarCap's betting on Kirch. "Kirch wants to build up a major sports business. Which is why were are investing in him."

Negotiations for the rights to the 2009 season are already in full swing. Kirch has met opposition from German public broadcasters, who say they will fight any deal that gives Bundesliga rights exclusively to pay TV in Germany.