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article imageExclusive: Deutsche Bank moves closer to settling Kirch dispute

    Feb 19, 2014 in Business

By Philipp Halstrick

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Deutsche Bank <DBKGn.DE> took a decisive step toward ending a dispute with the heirs of late media mogul Leo Kirch on Wednesday after the top committee on the bank's supervisory board prepared to discuss an out of court settlement, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters on Wednesday.

The proposed settlement, which has been mostly concluded with Kirch representatives, would cost Deutsche Bank between 800 million euros ($1.10 billion) and 1 billion euros, the source said.

"A settlement is largely negotiated," said the source.

Any final settlement with Kirch would be a major breakthrough for Germany's biggest bank, whose management team led by co-Chief Executives Anshu Jain and Juergen Fitschen has vowed to shorten a long list of investigations and cases.

The acrimonious case has dogged Deutsche Bank for more than a decade and most recently threatened to cost it as much as 1.5 billion euros.

Deutsche Bank and a spokesman for the Kirch family declined to comment.

The supervisory board has discussed proposals to settle the suit on several occasions in the recent past. None of those led to an agreed deal.

In the two-tier board structure common to big, listed German companies, the supervisory board oversees management and some key decisions undertaken by management.

Kirch, who died in 2011, had claimed that ex-Deutsche chief executive and later Chairman Rolf Breuer triggered his media group's downfall by questioning its creditworthiness in a 2002 television interview. Kirch sought for years to recoup about 2 billion euros ($2.7 billion) in damages.

Deutsche Bank and its officers have denied that Breuer's comments led to collapse of the Kirch empire.

The legal battle that ensued has seen prosecutors search Deutsche Bank offices as the court case progressed. In 2012, a Munich judge said Kirch had suffered damages of between 120 million and 1.5 billion euros. ($1 = 0.7272 euros)

(Reporting by Philip Halstrick; writing by Thomas Atkins; editing by Marilyn Gerlach and Tom Pfeiffer)

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