Kirch Group became one of the biggest film and TV concerns in Europe
German media mogul Leo Kirch passed away on Thursday morning (July 14) at the age of 84.
With great foresight of how content would become king in the global entertainment business, Kirch began buying up film rights from the mid-1950s, Fellini’s La Strada being his first acquisition in 1956.
His Kirch Group developed into one of the biggest film and TV concerns in Europe with almost 10,000 employees with a library of over 10,000 feature films and around 40,000 hours of TV programming. He also owned the TV channels ProSieben, Sat.1, N24 and DSF, had stakes in a labyrinthine network of companies such as the producer-distributor Constantin Film and was behind the setting up of the first pay TV channel in Germany, Premiere, and the first digital pay TV service DF1.
In 2002, the enormous investments in sports broadcasting rights and pay television proved to be the group’s undoing and his empire was forced to declare itself insolvent, making it the biggest insolvency of an enterprise in German postwar history.
Kirch claimed that Deutsche Bank’s chief Rolf Breuer was responsible for the insolvency after the banker had cast doubt on the mogul”s credit worthiness in a magazine interview. The legal battle by Kirch to win damages from Breuer had continued to occupy the courts up until shortly before Kirch”s death.