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Bankrupt Kirch Group Sells Sports TV

April 16, 2003

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) _ Germany’s bankrupt KirchMedia has agreed to sell its sports television station to an investor group including retailer Karstadt-Quelle, the company said Wednesday. It said the sale means it has disposed of 90 percent of its assets.

Karstadt-Quelle, German media company EM.TV and Swiss investor Hans-Dieter Cleven agreed to take over the DSF channel, subject to regulatory approval, KirchMedia said in a statement.

KirchMedia, part of the Kirch Group media empire, filed for bankruptcy last year. A court administrator is overseeing the sale of its assets to pay back creditors.

The bulk of its assets _ the ProSiebenSat.1 television broadcast group, and a film and TV program library _ have gone to U.S. media entrepreneur Haim Saban. ProSiebenSat.1 is Germany’s No. 2 private broadcaster behind Bertelsmann AG’s RTL Group.

The buyers intend to keep DSF, which stands for Deutsche SportFernsehen or German Sports Television, operating at its Munich base, KirchMedia said. DSF has an average share of 0.9 percent of German viewers.

The agreement has been signed by Karstadt-Quelle, Europe’s largest department-store operator, and Cleven, while EM.TV is to formally join the investor group after winning permission from antitrust authorities.

Despite the agreement, a competing bid from Saban remains a possibility, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily reported in an advance copy of a story for Thursday’s editions, without naming sources. The Saban Group had no immediate comment and a KirchMedia spokesman did not return a call seeking comment.

Any deal must also pass scrutiny by the court-appointed bankruptcy administrator, Kirch’s creditors’ committee and television regulators.

KirchMedia was the core business in the empire of Bavarian media mogul Leo Kirch, which collapsed last year under some 6.5 billion euros in debt.

Meanwhile, chairman Fedele Confalonieri of Mediaset said Italy’s largest private broadcaster is in talks with Saban over his purchase of KirchMedia’s film and TV program library.

``Saban is pulling investors together,″ Confalonieri told a shareholders’ meeting. ``There are proposals and counterproposals and we are in talks with them.″

A spokesman for Saban declined to comment on that report.

Mediaset chief executive Giuliano Adreani said last month that Mediaset would be interested in joining Saban.

However, the company’s chief financial officer, Marco Giordani, said Wednesday there was a wide gulf between Saban’s proposals and how Mediaset sees the structure of any deal.

``Saban can buy KirchMedia without us. We’re not going to make an entrance into Germany at any cost,″ he said.

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