German Establishment Battles to Thwart Murdoch

14 February 2002

German banks and politicians are hastily throwing up barricades in a bid to prevent Rupert Murdoch exploiting the Kirch Gruppe debacle to enter Germany’s media sector.

As a mountain of debt threatens to crush the empire built by Leo Kirch, rumours have been circulating for weeks that Murdoch is waiting for the moment to pounce [WAMN: 07-Feb-02].

However, strenuous efforts are being made to keep Kirch in German hands. Deutsche Bank has drawn up a restructuring plan involving the sale of assets, and recently chaired a meeting of the media giant’s creditors in an attempt to sell them its idea.

Unfortunately they have not convinced Mr Kirch, who was not present at the meeting and suspects the plan is little more than a way for the bank to gain investment-banking contracts. He is due to host a meeting of his own with German financiers today in Munich.

Kirch is still mulling a €1.1 billion ($964 million; £670m) offer from banking firm HVB Group for its 40% stake in newspaper publisher Axel Springer Verlag [WAMN: 12-Feb-02]. Meanwhile, Dresdner Bank is pondering whether to help HVB with its bid or make an offer of its own.

Politicians, not known for eschewing bandwagons, also got in on the act. “We must be careful not to block a solution that saves jobs and keeps content in Germany,” said German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who offered himself to all involved for consultation. His sentiments were echoed by members of parties across the political spectrum.

Data sourced from: Wall Street Journal; additional content by WARC staff