Creditors are betting that Florian Lahnstein, the 37-year-old head of German technology, media and telecommunications banking at UBS Warburg, can save the Munich-based media giant. One key tactic: making full use of Germany's new insolvency laws, which are similar to the U.S.'s Chapter 11 proceedings and aim to encourage corporate turnarounds.
Creditors, which include Disney and Sony, hired UBS Warburg in part because they valued Lahnstein's experience in the entertainment industry. "They said, 'He's one of us,'"recalls Lahnstein, who during his Arista days in the early '90s helped European acts like Eurythmics and Lisa Stansfield solidify their grasp on the U.S. market. He later served as a senior exec at Bertelsmann New Media, where, he says, U.S. investment banks would pitch him one "silly idea" after another.
But he's since earned his financial stripes, logging four years as a banker at Merrill Lynch before joining UBS Warburg a year ago. Most recently, he advised Germany's leading music TV company, Viva , which is backed by AOL Time Warner, EMI and Vivendi Universal , on its purchase of Brainpool, a company that produces television comedies. Lahnstein also spent all of 2000 raising $100 million for a venture capital fund, Arrow Capital, which has since been dissolved. Creditors hope KirchMedia will avoid that fate.