Life’s not a whole bundle of fun these day for quondam German media tycoon Leo Kirch (75), the remnants of whose former Kirch Gruppe empire lie in ruins around his feet.

But the one thing that would have cheered Leo – really, really cheered him – the downfall of newspaper group Axel Springer (which he sees as the catalyst for his misfortunes), is for the time being a non-runner.

Once upon a time in Europe, Kirch acquired a forty percent stake in Springer – the continent’s largest newspaper publisher – which when creditors started knocking on his door he offered as collateral to Deutsche Bank for a €720 million ($704.18m; £453.81m) loan.

When the readies ran out, Kirch put the Springer stake up for auction [WAMN: 28-Aug-02], hoping that the stake would be seized by WAZ Gruppe or another hostile bidder for Springer. The deadline for bids was yesterday (Tuesday) and, alas, there was but a single taker – Deutsche Bank, in whose talons the stake is already grasped.

The bank, however, stresses that the buy is “a purely transitional financial investment”, which it will either sell to a third party or float on the stock market. Whatever the outcome, it gives Springer breathing space to cement a likely sweetheart deal with Swiss rival Ringier [WAMN: 23-Sep-02].

And leaves Leo more disconsolate than ever.

Data sourced from: Times Online (UK); additional content by WARC staff