Signs of accord between Mediaset and Vivendi over international plans
Mediaset, the Italy-based commercial broadcasting group, still hopes to be able to converge its international business despite having been forced to drop a plan to create a pan-European operation because of resistance from prominent shareholder Vivendi.
Mediaset, which is controlled by the family of former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, has been striving to merge its Italian and Spanish arms under a new Dutch holding company called MediaForEurope.
However, Vivendi, Mediaset’s second biggest shareholder, led by French billionaire Vincent Bolloré, has fought the proposal on the grounds that the governance structure would allow the Berlusconi family to have greater control over the company.
In 2019, Vivendi succeeded in convincing a Madrid court to suspend the project, and, after the court last month rejected an attempt to have the suspension lifted, Mediaset decided at a board meeting yesterday that it would not be proceeding as planned.
However, Mediaset is considering other options, and there are signs of a rapprochement with Vivendi, with the latter having written to the Italian broadcaster in the wake of the court ruling saying it is prepared to support an international growth strategy if there is a governance structure acceptable to minority shareholders.
This was rejected by Mediaset, but it said it is open to talks with Vivendi over a multi-country plan that would gain wider support, and the board is reported to have invited the French group to submit concrete proposals as part of a settlement.
The tension between the two companies dates back to 2016 when Vivendi backed out of a deal to buy Mediaset’s pay-television unit.
Since then, Vivendi has built up a 29-per-cent stake in Mediaset, which the latter has regarded as hostile, and legal wrangling has continued unabated.