Bollore, Berlusconi in a feud of Napoleonic scope.


"The Italian media are currently fending off a so-called 'French invasion.' A total of 177 takeovers of Italian companies, by the French, took place between 2012 and 2016, while Vivendi is currently fighting for power at Mediaset and Telecom Italia," stated the Strasbourg-based European Audiovisual Observatory.

To recap what is now becoming a Napoleonic war between Mediaset's Silvio Berlusconi and Vivendi's Vincent Bollore: In April 2016 Vivendi signed an agreement to acquire 89 percent of Mediaset's money-losing, pay-TV service Premium.

Instead of real money, Vivendi used 3.5 percent of its shares valued at 870 million euro. However, in order to buy Premium, Vivendi received 3.5 percent of Mediaset's share, worth 150 million euro (in effect, Vivendi paid 720 million euro for Premium).

But, four months later, Vivendi reneged on the agreement and instead went for control of Mediaset. Since last December, and unbeknownst to the Berlusconi family, Vivendi had been amassing Mediaset's stock to the point of reaching a 28.8 percent share. Bollore's surprising move sent Berlusconi into a panic, raking in more Mediaset shares on the open market to reach its current 38.266 percent ownership.

In terms of ownership, Berlusconi controls Mediaset through his financial group, Fininvest, and Bollore controls Vivendi through his Bollore Group, which owns 20.4 percent of Vivendi, which in turn owns the French pay-TV group Canal Plus.

At the moment Berlusconi and Bollore are at an impasse over Mediaset: the former cannot go over 40 percent ownership until this month, while the latter cannot go over 30 percent without triggering a public offering for the remaining 70 percent.

The understanding among analysts is that, for Bollore, the deal for Premium was a so-called Trojan Horse: an excuse to enter into Mediaset. Berlusconi's lawyers charged that Bollore reneged on the Premium deal to push Mediaset's stock down to acquire it at lower price.

Now, in order to reduce the number of Mediaset's outstanding shares on the market, at the end of June Berlusconi's team will propose Mediaset's board to buy 10 percent of its own shares.

In France, Bollore is known as a raider with mysterious goals. For example, it is unclear what his strategy is for Canal Plus' disappointing payTV programs and for iTele (now CNews), Canal Plus' 24-hour news channel, which is entangled in controversy over Bollore's connection to iTele's host Jean-Marc Morandini, who has been accused of...

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