German entrepreneur Dr. Georg Kofler (pictured) has been enticed back into the Kirch empire to head up the debt-ridden digital pay TV platform Premiere World. At the same time, US cable operator Liberty Media has surprisingly withdrawn an application submitted to the German cartel office for clearance to take a stake in Premiere World.

Announcing Kofler's appointment Dr. Peter Mihatsch, chairman of the supervisory board, declared that "with Georg Kofler, we have been able to get one of the most successful German media operators for Premiere World. With his special mixture of experience and pioneer spirit he will also lead Premiere World to success".

"Premiere is the most exciting temptation since television began", said Kofler in his typically effusive manner. "The loveliest films, the biggest sports events, the direct contact to the public and one of the most well-known media brands. Whatever the future of television may bring, Premiere will play a major and innovative role in it".

"I am confident that we will be able to write one of the great success stories of the German media business with Premiere World", he added. Only a week ago, the platform reported that its subscriptions had increased 5% year-on-year to over 2.4m by the end of 2001, although original forecasts had seen the service already reaching 2.9m by the end of 2000.

Kofler is no stranger to the KirchGroup since he worked as Leo Kirch's assistant and office manager from 1987 before taking over the management of ProSieben Television in 1988 and successfully bringing the later ProSieben Media to the stock exchange in 1997. His own business activities have centred, in particular, on transaction television with a 15 % stake in Home Shopping Europe and a 26.67% interest in Hot Networks.

With his appointment as chairman of the Premiere World management board as from February 1, Kofler will relinquish his post as board chairman of Hot Networks and now only serve as the management holding's supervisory board chairman.

After the exits last autumn of Manfred Puffer and Ferdinand Kayser from the Premiere World management, Kofler will now head a management team comprising Michael Boernicke (Finances and Organisation) Hans Seger (Programming, Marketing and Sales) and Dr. Helmut Stein (Technology).

Late last year, Liberty, who intends to acquire cable TV networks from Deutsche Telekom, had indicated that it was interested in acquiring the 22% stake in the pay platform held by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation. (ends)