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FEBRUARY 2, 2002

Kirch and politics

IT is German election time and Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder is looking at ways to hold off the challenge from Edmund Stoiber and it seems that Stoiber's connections with Leo Kirch may now become a political issue, particularly if Kirch continues to look vulnerable.

Stoiber came in for criticism last year when the Bavarian landesbank agreed to loan Kirch $2bn when commercial banks refused to provide him with more cash. Kirch is also a contributor to Stoiber's party in Bavaria.

But, according to reports in Germany, Schroeder is not planning to use this to attack Stoiber but rather is hoping that saving Kirch he can avoid a foreign takeover of a powerful media company and thus win support from more conservative elements in Germany.

Schroeder is said to be putting pressure on Kirch's major creditor Deutsche Bank to delay debt repayments to give Kirch the chance to survive.

All this is highly important to Formula 1 as Kirch holds the commercial rights to F1 for the next 100 years.