It will come as little surprise to readers who have followed the seemingly endless sell-off of quondam German media empire Kirch Gruppe that there may yet be a final twist in the tale.

Last month, it was reported that insolvent flagship rights unit KirchMedia had agreed a takeover deal with German publisher Bauer [WAMN: 24-Dec-02]. However, that sale is now in question with news that a new bidder – US billionaire Haim Saban – has made a dramatic eleventh-hour offer.

Saban was involved in earlier stages of the auction, but has apparently raised his cash bid to €2 billion ($2.1bn; £1.3bn), far more than the €1.2bn–€1.4bn he offered previously. At the same time, Bauer is reportedly having second thoughts over the deal after seeing earnings forecasts for broadcaster ProSiebenSat.1, in which KirchMedia has a controlling stake.

The Saban offer has friends in high places, with the US embassy urging German politicians to make sure it receives “fair consideration”.

KirchMedia is said to be looking into the Saban bid, though insiders deny this is connected with the American diplomatic. pressure. “Under German insolvency law, KirchMedia is forced to consider any serious offer that appears to top the Bauer bid,” explained one mole.

However, many observers are taking reports of the Saban offer with a significant pinch of salt. “Bauer is playing hardball to see if it can get away with a slightly lower bid,” said one cynical banker. “These rumours about Saban being back in the race come at a rather convenient time for KirchMedia.”

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff