Deutsche Bank CEO to appear in court in Kirch case

Industries Reuters

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Deutsche Bank <DBKGn.DE> Chief Executive Josef Ackermann will appear in a Munich court on Thursday to testify in one of the lawsuits brought against the bank by fallen German media mogul Leo Kirch.

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The spat has dragged on for almost a decade and is one of the most bitter and drawn-out legal disputes in corporate Germany.

Kirch is seeking around 2 billion euros ($2.9 billion) in damages from the bank and its former Chairman Rolf Breuer, alleging that Breuer triggered Kirch Group's collapse by questioning the creditworthiness of his media empire in a 2002 Bloomberg Television interview.

A Munich court asked former and current executive board members including CEO Ackermann to appear as witnesses to establish whether Kirch's claim for damages have merit.

Deutsche Bank denies that it caused the collapse of his business.

Kirch has launched lawsuits in the United States and in several different courts in Germany to recoup some of his losses, but he has had little success so far.

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Kirch, 84 years old and virtually blind, has suffered health problems in recent years, but they have not stopped him from pursuing his legal claims.

At a court appearance in March, the diabetic octogenarian was wheelchair bound and had to bring a friend to repeat to the court his whispered statements as he tried to get over a bout of bronchitis.

Kirch's legal dispute with Deutsche Bank is focused on PrintBeteiligungs GmbH, one of the principal companies in the now-collapsed Kirch Group.

Kirch originally built his business importing films from Hollywood and overseas into Germany. It eventually spanned television broadcasting, Formula One rights and publishing.

(Reporting by Edward Taylor; Editing by Will Waterman)

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