German media mogul
diabetes and near-blindness for several years.
At its height, Kirch's media group was valued at $5 billion. It held Germany's biggest film-licensing library, the nation's only pay-television channel and rights to two World Cup soccer tournaments. When Kirch resigned, his companies were under court protection from creditors, the biggest bankruptcy filing in Germany since World War II.
The son of a Bavarian grape grower, Kirch took time off from teaching economics at Munich University in 1956. He drove to Italy in search of filmmakers and found Federico Fellini, who had just directed "La Strada." Kirch bought the German rights to distribute the movie, borrowing the money from his wife, Ruth.
It was a gamble that paid off. "La Strada" was popular with German audiences and ultimately considered a classic, so royalties rolled in for years. Kirch kept buying until he had the largest film library outside the United States, including the Buster Keaton library, the Laurel and Hardy library, and the Howard Hughes/RKO library with "King Kong" and "Citizen Kane."
When German Chancellor Helmut Kohl ushered in private television in the 1980s, Kirch moved to assemble television properties. In 1996, Kirch began pouring money into a new venture: pay TV. In four years he spent more than $3 billion building Premiere World, his flagship pay-TV channel.
The endeavor didn't pay off. German viewers who already had a wide choice of channels, many free, didn't feel the need to pay for what Premiere World had to offer.
French choreographer had Hollywood stint
Roland Petit, 87, an acclaimed choreographer whose creations dazzled audiences from Paris to Hollywood, died July 10 in Geneva, according to the Paris National Opera. The cause was not given.
Born in 1924 in Villemomble, France, Petit took his first dance steps at 9 at the Paris Opera's School of Dance.
While opening several ballet companies in Paris after its liberation from the Nazis, as well as the Marseille ballet house, Petit maintained ties with Paris Opera, offering 11 creations, including "Notre Dame de Paris."
His reputation grew well beyond France in the 1950s during a four-year stint in Hollywood, collaborating with Orson Welles on the 1953 ballet "The Lady in the Ice" and choreographing such film classics as 1952's "Hans Christian Andersen" with Danny Kaye, 1955's "Daddy Long Legs" with Fred Astaire and Leslie Caron, and 1956's "Anything Goes" with Bing Crosby and Petit's wife, Zizi Jeanmaire.
Petit choreographed for Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn, among other great dancers, during an eclectic career with the Paris Opera, Casino de Paris and what is now known as National Ballet of Marseille-Roland Petit.
In 1998, he began traveling the world to create new ballets or mount old works with the likes of the San Francisco Ballet, the Bolshoi in Moscow, La Scala in Milan, the Asami Maki Ballet of Tokyo and the National Ballet of China.
Longtime L.A. Times photographer
Cal Montney, 91, a longtime staff photographer for the Los Angeles Times whose assignments included the Watts riots, died July 4 of congestive heart failure at his home in San Jacinto, said his granddaughter Patricia Borrero.