MUNICH (Reuters) - The legal battle between Deutsche Bank and media mogul Leo Kirch looked no closer to being resolved after a day of hearings in a Munich court which saw Chief Executive Josef Ackermann in the witness stand.
Judge Guido Kotschy had sought to establish whether the lender had damaged Kirch's business with intent, in a bid to resolve one of Germany's most bitter, drawn-out corporate disputes.
Kirch is seeking around 2 billion euros ($2.9 billion) in damages from the bank and its former Chairman Rolf Breuer, alleging Breuer triggered Kirch Group's downfall by questioning the creditworthiness of his media empire in a 2002 Bloomberg Television interview.
Ackermann and chairman Clemens Boersig both appeared in court as witnesses as the court tried to establish whether Deutsche Bank had made an effort to seek a mandate to restructure Kirch's stricken media empire after it had fallen on hard times in 2002.
Deutsche Bank signaled it had sought such a mandate at its annual general meeting in 2007, the court was told, but Ackermann and other executives on Thursday sought to play down this possibility.
"I did not seek a mandate from Kirch," Ackermann told the court. And getting such a mandate was not discussed at a Deutsche Bank board meeting in 2002, Ackermann added.
The fact that the bank did not pursue such a mandate was further proof that no such plan was on the agenda, Ackermann told the Munich regional appeals court.
Ackermann further said that any comments which left the impression that the bank had sought such a mandate, such as his remarks at the annual general meeting in 2007, "lacked sufficient detail."
Deutsche Bank denied that it conspired to cause the collapse of German media mogul Leo Kirch's business empire.
Chairman Clemens Boersig told the court on Thursday the bank's management board had not discussed Kirch's business in detail at a meeting held a few days before the interview.
"That was a very marginal point," said Boersig, then-finance chief of Germany's biggest lender, adding that nobody who took part in the meeting had a strong interest in winning a mandate to help Kirch Group restructure if it failed.
Breuer earlier this year told the court the statements he made in the interview were an "accident."
Kirch, 84 years old and almost blind, 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.
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 Christian Kraemer; Writing by Maria Sheahan and Edward Taylor; Editing by David Holmes and Elaine Hardcastle)