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Business

Murdoch Deals Fatal Blow to Kirch Holding

Taurus Holding, the parent holding company of the ailing Kirch media empire, confirmed it will file for insolvency "in the short term".

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Germany's top soccer teams will lose money because of the Kirch insolvency.

Taurus Holding GmbH, the parent holding company of ailing media giant Kirch Group, confirmed Monday that it will file for insolvency "in the short term" following a decision by British pay-TV operator BSkyB to exercise earlier than planned an option to sell its 22% stake in insolvent KirchPayTV.

BSkyB, part of Rupert Murdoch's media empire, said in London that specific circumstances had arisen, which led it to exercise the option before its due date in October. It dit not detail the reasons for its decision.

A Kirch spokesman confirmed that the option had been exercised. It means that Taurus Holding will have to pay 1.7 billion euro to buy back BSkyB's stake in KirchPayTV.

The fatal blow for Kirch's holding company did not come wholly unexpected.

Taurus Holding is also the majority shareholder of insolvent Kirch Media, the core rights unit of Kirch Group, and of KirchPayTV, which filed for insolvency last week.

Only Kirch Beteiligungs GmbH, which bundles Kirch's shareholdings in motor-racing series Formula One, publisher Axel Springer Verlag AG and film production company Constantin Film AG, remains solvent.

Meanwhile, clubs in Germany's Bundesliga soccer league will have to tighten their belts still further. Kirch Media and pay-TV channel Premiere plan to pay only 290 million euro per season for the broadcasting rights to Bundesliga soccer matches, people close to the companies said.

Under the existing contract – which runs until the middle of 2004 – the companies agreed to pay 360 million euro for the 2002/03 season and 460 million euro for the 2003/04 season.

People close to the soccer clubs participating in the negotiations said that the two sides had started to move closer but that "considerable differences" in their positions remained.

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