Witness Disputes Kerkorian Claim As DaimlerChrysler Trial Nears End

By Agence France-Presse An expert witness for DaimlerChrysler AG testified on Feb. 11 that tycoon Kirk Kerkorian's claim that he lost over $1 billion due to the merger of Daimler-Benz and Chrysler is "speculative and implausible." Daniel Fischel, a University of Chicago law professor, was called by the automaker in what was expected to be the final day of the trial in which Kerkorian has accused the German auto giant of fraudulently engineering a takeover of the U.S. carmaker while calling it a "merger of equals." Fischel said there is nothing unusual about big management shakeups after a merger, when asked about the events at DaimlerChrysler in which most Chrysler executives and board members were replaced by those from the German firm. "There's no difference between this merger of equals transaction and others," he said. Moreover, Fischel said Kerkorian and his Tracinda Corp. holding company benefited from the buzz of the merger and could have cashed out with a gain of over $1 billion in May 1998, just before the deal was formally announced. Fischel was the last witness in the trial, and both sides agreed to submit closing arguments in writing instead of orally. U.S. District Judge Joseph Farnan suspended the trial in December after lawyers for the German auto giant belatedly acknowledged the existence of handwritten notes about the deal by Gary Valade, the former Chrysler chief financial officer and chief Chrysler negotiator. The trial resumed in February after a two-month hiatus. Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2004

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