FRANKFURT -- Lawyers for U.S. billionaire Kirk Kerkorian said late on Thursday they had won access to evidence they believe proves DaimlerChrysler misled shareholders about its 1998 merger, supporting their $8 billion lawsuit.
Kerkorian sued the group's senior managers through his holding firm Tracinda Corp. in November 2000, alleging that they dubbed the deal between Daimler-Benz and Chrysler "a merger of equals" when in fact they were seeking to relegate Chrysler to a division of DaimlerChrysler.
Tracinda's lawyers said in a statement an English judge had ordered the Financial Times to hand over a tape-recording of an October 2000 interview with DaimlerChrysler Chief Executive Juergen Schrempp in which he allegedly admitted Chrysler was always destined to be a division of the enlarged group.
"We are gratified by the decision of the High Court of Justice, which overcomes Mr. Schrempp's effort to suppress full disclosure of the interview he gave to the Financial Times in which we believe he admitted defrauding the shareholders of Chrysler," Terry Christensen, a lawyer for Tracinda, said in the statement.
A DaimlerChrysler spokesman said the interview offered no new facts, pointing out that a full transcript was available on the Internet the day after it took place.
"We will not engage in a trivial debate about anything that is not central to the case. The facts relevant to the case are clear and we released them last week," he said, adding that the decision to release the interview was taken by the Financial Times and Tracinda lawyers and had not involved DaimlerChrysler.
In documents released last week, DaimlerChrysler argues that many other earlier media reports had described the deal as a takeover rather than a merger of equals.
But Kerkorian contends that the FT article was a catalyst for his case against DaimlerChrysler as it first alerted him to Schrempp's long-term intention regarding Chrysler.
A court in Delaware in the United States will decide whether or not the case should proceed after March 17 when all submissions are due.
DaimlerChrysler has said that the case is unfounded and is confident it will be dismissed. It has said 11 former Chrysler directors, including former chairman Bob Eaton, had submitted sworn declarations backing DaimlerChrysler's motion to halt the lawsuit.