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Ex-Bertelsmann CEO Middelhoff Probed Over Kirch Suit Testimony

Nov. 29 (Bloomberg) -- Former Bertelsmann SE Chief Executive Officer Thomas Middelhoff faces a criminal probe by German prosecutors over suspicions he gave false testimony about the demise of the late Leo Kirch’s media group.

Middelhoff, who testified as part of a Kirch-related civil suit against Deutsche Bank AG, may have given misleading information, Thomas Steinkraus-Koch, a spokesman for the Munich prosecutors, said in an e-mail today. He declined to elaborate on the probe.

Companies that formed the empire of the late German media tycoon who died two years ago say in lawsuits that the country’s biggest bank secretly plotted the group’s demise in 2002. Former and current Deutsche Bank executives, along with Middelhoff, have had to answer questions about a meeting with then-German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder at which the financial state of the former media giant was discussed.

Ex-Deutsche Bank CEOs Rolf Breuer and Josef Ackermann, former Chairman Clemens Boersig and former board member Tessen von Heydebreck are under investigation over their testimony in the decade-old dispute. This month, co-CEO Juergen Fitschen was added to the list of those under investigation.

In a separate case, Middelhoff was found liable last year for management failures as CEO of retailer Arcandor AG, which filed for insolvency in 2009.

Sven Thomas, a lawyer for Middelhoff, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.

To contact the reporter on this story: Cornelius Rahn in Berlin at crahn2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Kenneth Wong at kwong11@bloomberg.net

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