Deutsche Bank chief Josef Ackermann is to step down as head of Germany's biggest bank in two years at the latest, but possibly earlier if he must face court again in the so-called Mannesmann affair, the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported on Thursday. Ackermann's contract is due to expire in two years. But the controversial Swiss-born chief executive could quit earlier if the long-running Mannesmann case, which had ended in Ackermann's acquittal last July, is re-opened, the newspaper said, without revealing its sources. Deutsche Bank rejected the reports, calling them "pure speculation, without any foundation whatsoever." In July 2004, a court in Düsseldorf found that Ackermann and five other top executives were not guilty of charges of breach of fiduciary duty when they rubber-stamped multi-million-euro golden handshakes to managers at the end of the fierce Mannesmann-Vodafone takeover battle in 2000. The managers were charged, to varying degrees, with breaking the law by aproving a total 111.5 million marks (57 million euros, $72 million) in payouts for former Mannesmann executives. But state prosecutors appealed the verdict and federal prosecutors threw their weight behind that appeal last month.