Silvio Berlusconi To Appeal Wiretap Verdict
Italian media mogul and former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was handed a one-year jail term today by an Italian court over an illegal wiretap. It’s highly unlikely the Mediaset chief will do any time as he has appeals available to him and, under Italian law, isn’t expected to go to prison until all appeal attempts are exhausted. Berlusconi is already appealing a four-year sentence that was handed to him in Milan last year over fraud on movie rights deals. Today’s punishment comes for making public the taped contents of a confidential phone call in a case related to a 2005 banking scandal, Reuters reported. Berlusconi has oft been in court before over his business dealings, but he’s always been cleared or seen the statute of limitations expire.
Global Showbiz Briefs: Silvio Berlusconi, Nicholas Hytner, India Channel Crunch, ‘Vigilante’ Launched
Silvio Berlusconi To Appeal Wiretap Verdict
BBC Comedies Vie For Commissions At Salford Sitcom Showcase
The BBC is taking a shot at remaking It Takes A Village, the 2010 ABC pilot by Casey Johnson & David Windsor that starred Leah Remini. Whether the UK version actually goes forward, however, will be in the hands of a live studio audience next month. For the second year in a row, the BBC is testing a crop of potential shows in front of a live audience at the Salford Sitcom Showcase, a three-day event during which six comedy pilots are performed onstage to a packed house as execs take notes. The first edition spawned commissions for family sitcoms Citizen Khan, which BBC One just picked up for a second season, and Hebburn which debuted on BBC Two this month. On deck at this year’s showcase with It Takes A Village are the battling-neighbors show 1987, from Sherlock producers Beryl and Sue Vertue; Just Us, about a couple forced to downsize from London that’s exec produced by Don Taffner for DLT Entertainment and stars Downton Abbey‘s Samantha Bond; The Gatekeeper, from exec producers Gareth Edwards and Saurabh Kakkar about a 40-ish man who works the nightshift as a security guard; the Pete Thornton exec produced Chain Gang about life in a Bristol coffee bar and family show Homeboys from exec producer Mario Stylianides for Lucky Giant. This year, the Salford Showcase runs from Nov 21-23.
Angry Berlusconi says “There Will Be Consequences”
A day after receiving a jail sentence for tax fraud, Italian media mogul and former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi says he feels “obliged” to stay in politics to “reform the justice system so that what happened to me doesn’t happen to other citizens”. He’s expected to appeal his conviction and four-year prison sentence for inflating the price of distribution rights bought by his Mediaset group to avoid paying taxes. He’s also barred from holding office for five years. He says his court ordeal was “intolerable judicial harassment” by left-leaning judges in Milan. “There will be consequences,” he said in an interview today on TG5, one of the TV channels owned by his conglomerate Mediaset.
Italian media mogul and erstwhile Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was handed a four-year jail sentence by a Milan court today, although it’s unlikely he’ll serve the time. Berlusconi and other executives at his Italian media conglomerate Mediaset were alleged to have inflated prices paid for broadcast rights to U.S. movies and TV shows via offshore companies controlled by Berlusconi’s holding company Fininvest. The accused were then alleged to have skimmed off part of the money to create illegal slush funds. The deals in question were worth 470M euros and occurred between 1994 and 1999, according to Reuters. The judge gave the controversial mogul a slightly longer sentence than the 3 years and 8 months prosecutors were seeking and also levied a fine of $12.96M. Berlusconi is expected to appeal the verdict in a case that began more than six years ago.
Italian broadcaster Mediaset has sold 6% of senior debt in Big Brother producer Endemol. The amount equals the total of its remaining stake in the Dutch TV giant. In a brief statement, Silvio Berlusconi-controlled Mediaset announced it had sold the stake “on the market.” Mediaset did not provide financials in its statement, but a Reuters source pegged the value at about $96 million. Last year, shortly after Time Warner made an unsolicited $1.4 billion bid for Endemol, Mediaset made a joint offer for the company with private equity group Clessidra. Endemol didn’t publicly entertain the bids and instead focused on restructuring some 2 billion euros worth of debt. In January, the company said it had reached agreements in principle with more than two-thirds of its lenders on a debt-for-equity swap that would bring the 2 billion euros in debt down to about 500 million. Mediaset’s stake in Endemol was diluted in the January agreement that handed control to creditors and, the thinking goes, the company wanted to get out.
When accepting the invitation, the Italian actor and director said: “This is a real joy, an honour and a tremendous responsibility to preside over the jury of the most prestigious festival of cinematography in the world, a festival that is held in a country where film has always been treated with interest and respect. As a director, I was always very moved when my films were presented at the Festival de Cannes. I also have very happy memories of my experience as a jury member during the fiftieth anniversary season, and of the attentiveness and passion that went into the jury’s viewing and discussion of all the films. As a spectator, fortunately I still have the same curiosity that I had in my youth and so it is a great privilege for me to embark on this voyage into the world of contemporary international film.”
Although the financial crisis worsened in Europe this year, a bright spot emerging is the region’s film financing. I’m told that European investors who have become increasingly skittish about putting money into the markets are more seriously eyeing film investment as a safer bet. At the same time, producers and studios want to let outsiders in to mitigate risk. In recent high-profile deals, France’s StudioCanal which is riding high with Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy among other projects has signed a $200 million slate financing pact with London-based private fund Anton Capital Entertanment. But on a down note for France, the end of the year has been marked by upset in the post-production sector with the financial turmoil at Tarak Ben Ammar’s Quinta Industries and the future of dozens of films in jeopardy. The next year will see much hand-wringing over a sector that has moved to digital at a breakneck – some would say reckless – pace. Buyers were in fine fettle at the Cannes Film Festival with many deals concluded and a sense that smart money and realistic prices have returned. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Cannes’ persona non grata Lars von Trier and his controversial “Nazi” remarks. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Cannes this year saw the debut of such award darlings as The Artist and Palme d’Or winner Terrence Malick’s The Tree Of Life. Cannes programmer Thierry Frémaux in 2012 faces the daunting challenge of coming up with a better selection than his 2011 vintage which found favor with the typically harsh Riviera audience.
In Germany in December, the oft-morphing Senator entered a long-term strategic partnership with Ryan Kavanaugh’s Relativity which also took a significant stake in the producer-distributor. In other German news, there were troubles at Degeto, the film acquisition arm of broadcaster ARD whose chief, Hans-Wolfgang Jurgan, was let go in November following revelations that the company had overspent its budget. German independent producers were particularly anguished given Degeto’s position as a prime co-production partner. The situation remains somewhat tenuous and will likely be a hot topic at the Berlin Film Fest in February.
EXCLUSIVE: Abel Ferrara and screenwriter Christ Zois are indeed working on a feature script partly inspired by this summer’s sex scandal surrounding former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Wild Bunch’s Vincent Maraval has confirmed it. Gérard Depardieu and Isabelle Adjani are circling characters based on the scandal-plagued former IMF chief and his wife Anne Sinclair. They’ve met with the director. But Maraval says the project is still a long way from active development.
The idea for a film came about on a lark when Ferrara was making 4:44 Last Day On Earth with Wild Bunch earlier this year. Per Maraval, it was suggested that the DSK sex scandal would be a good fit for Ferrara given the filmmaker’s penchant for themes of addiction. Maraval says Ferrara and sometime collaborator Zois are now writing a script which could include elements inspired by the lives of other politicians like Bill Clinton and Silvio Berlusconi along with Strauss-Kahn. But, despite earlier reports in the French press, he stresses it’s too early to say anything definitively. “One thing we do know is that there’s a real common desire amongst Depardieu, Adjani and Ferrara to work together. But like every day in this business, we have to see if there’s a film there. Today, the only reality is that they are writing something inspired by Strauss-Kahn that will focus on addiction and politicians. It’s more …
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association loves their stars. And that’s why there were really no surprises in their nominations for the Golden Globes this morning. There were also no major embarrassments like last year, when they nominated The Tourist for Best Picture, Actor and Actress. Damn, that was fun.
I had a conversation with a publicist last night and we predicted almost this entire list. HFPA members often share their opinions, and you know going in that even if George Clooney’s The Ides Of March has not turned up in any significant way in other awards contests so far, the HFPA was going to give it a boost. One Italian member told me last week it was the only movie this person really loved even though it is a film about American politics. Even Clooney (who between writing, directing and Best Motion Picture Drama noms for this and a best actor-drama nod for The Descendants got a personal haul of four nominations) seemed to sense he was going to score big with this when I asked him about it an interview last week. “It’s a funny thing. The Globes folks really like this a lot,” he said. “It was interesting to go to that (HFPA) press conference because internationally everyone sort of related to it on their own. In Italy, they think it’s about Berlusconi. It’s funny to see how things play in different arenas.” And it also helps to be George Clooney, who scored this exact scenario in 2005 when he was thrice nominated for writing, directing and picture on Good Night, And Good Luck and Best Supporting Actor for Syriana — winning for the latter and going on to get the same kind of Oscar recognition for those films. Whether this very specific boost for Ides Of March — well-reviewed (85% at Rotten Tomatoes) but until today awards-challenged — results in a similar scenario remains to be seen.
In recent years, the correlation between Golden Globe winners and Oscar winners has been dwindling. In fact, since 2004 the Globes Best Motion Picture-Drama has matched the eventual Best Picture Oscar winner only once — for 2008′s Slumdog Millionaire. In 2004, the Globes went with The Aviator over Oscar winner Million Dollar Baby. In 2005 Munich, Capote and eventual Oscar Best Pic choice Crash first all failed to get even the equivalent Globe nomination (Brokeback Mountain won at the Globes). In 2006, Babel won the Globe over eventual Oscar victor The Departed (although the latter’s director, Martin Scorsese, took both). In 2007, the HFPA went with Atonement over Oscar choice No Country For Old Men. In 2009, the Globes went big for Avatar only to see that as the film’s last big awards hurrah before Oscar crowned The Hurt Locker. And last year, Sony’s The Social Network achieved a Globes victory only to be run over by The King’s Speech in every subsequent contest. At the Globes after-party for the Weinstein Company, a defiant Harvey Weinstein predicted this was only the “beginning” and that his film would eventually triumph, Of course, he turned out to be right.
The amount is the same as Time Warner’s previous offer for the reality TV producer. But the entertainment giant now tells Endemol that it’s willing to pay all cash — not a combination of cash and debt — if the company wants. Endemol execs had made no secret of their disdain for Time Warner’s previous bid, which one insider referred to as “rock bottom.” The revised offer comes as Endemol approaches its December 13 deadline for a debt-for-equity swap designed to reduce the company’s debt to $670M from $3.7B. Once that happens, the company could be put up for auction. But the situation is complicated: One of Endemol’s biggest shareholders — Italy’s Mediaset, controlled by former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi — is also interested in buying the producer of shows including Big Brother, and Deal Or No Deal. It has said that it would not participate in an auction. Apollo Management, Centerbridge, and Providence Equity Partners and banks including Barclays and RBS are among Endemol’s biggest creditors.
Just days after Silvio Berlusconi left Italian politics, he’s already on the hunt for Big Media. Berlusconi’s Mediaset and Italian private equity firm Clessidra have entered a joint bid for Dutch reality TV giant Endemol. “We have presented our offer with Clessidra,” Mediaset vice chairman (and the former prime minister’s son) Pier Silvio Berlusconi confirmed Thursday, according to reports from Milan. No terms were disclosed. But earlier this month Mediaset’s CFO said the company would invest more money in Endemol if there were a “clear strategy” for the company.
When queried about the Mediaset/Clessidra bid, Endemol spokesman Charlie Gardner told Deadline, “Our focus is on the restructuring of our debt. Those discussions are progressing well and we’re confident of a positive outcome soon.” Mediaset currently owns around a third of Endemol, whose other owners are Goldman Sachs’ Capital Partners and John de Mol’s investment vehicle Cyrte. Time Warner recently made a $1.4 billion unsolicited offer for Endemol which the target put on hold as it proceeds with a debt restructuring.
The creditors of Endemol — the Dutch reality TV company whose series include Big Brother – are hoping that they can elicit a higher bid following a restructuring. They’ve set a December 13 deadline for a planned debt-for-equity swap designed to reduce the company’s debt to $670M from $3.7B, Italy’s La Repubblica says. Apollo Management, Centerbridge, and Providence Equity Partners and banks including Barclays and RBS are among Endemol’s biggest creditors. Company officials made no secret of their disdain for the Time Warner offer, which one insider referred to as “rock bottom.” It values the company at seven times its expected $192M earnings this year before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) — far less than the 12 times EBITDA multiple that Rupert Murdoch paid for his daughter Elisabeth’s Shine Group. Endemol founder John De Mol’s investment vehicle Cyrte is said to have wooed Ronald Goes, head of international TV production at Warner Bros, into making the bid; the Dutch Time Warner executive used to be COO of Endemol. Cyrte and the other leading shareholders — former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset and Goldman Sachs’ Capital Partners — are exploring several options for the company. For example, Mediaset has tried to persuade UK broadcaster ITV to buy it.
Silvio Berlusconi’s rivals in the media industry for years have accused him of massive conflicts of interest running the government that regulates Italy’s media industry, of which he is such a big part. Lawsuits, scandals, and plenty of brash talk from the outspoken mogul who defied every controversy were normal during his time in office. But today in Rome the billionaire media baron did what his political and media enemies have wanted him to do for years: he resigned. This will leave him time to focus on his conglomerate Mediaset, Italy’s largest commercial broadcaster that also runs Spain’s Espana Comunicacion and has a stake in Dutch reality TV giant Endemol among its many interests. Berlusconi had 3 separate stints as Italy’s prime minister over a 17-year span. This week he pledged to step down after the government finally passed a package of harsh economic reforms designed to keep Italy from defaulting on its $2.6 trillion debt and avoid the market meltdown that threatens to sweep through Europe. Berlusconi handed in his resignation at the presidential palace, where thousands gathered to cheer his ouster, yelling “buffoon,” “Mafioso” and “shame” as he arrived, according to news reports.
One insider familiar with the negotiations describes Time Warner’s bid for the debt-laden Dutch TV company as “rock bottom.” I’m told Endemol’s owners consider the Time Warner bid “ridiculously low.” It comes to seven times Endemol’s expected $192M earnings this year before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA). It’s anybody’s guess as to whether that’s enough for Endemol’s three owners — Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset, Goldman Sachs’ Capital Partners and Endemol founder John De Mol’s investment vehicle Cyrte. I’m told that Cyrte wooed Ronald Goes, head of international TV production at Warner Bros, into making the bid; the Dutch Time Warner executive used to be COO of Endemol. “His job is to do this kind of deal,” says media analyst Claire Enders. “His view is that Endemol has significant assets that can be built up.” Still, the offer illustrates how big a premium Rupert Murdoch paid for his daughter Elisabeth’s Shine Group: He shelled out $675M, valuing Shine at roughly 12 times EBITDA. That’s a huge difference: Endemol generates strong cash flow, even though it is desperate to wipe away at least $2.7B from the $3.8B it owes lenders. The Big Brother producer’s largest creditors include private equity funds Apollo Management, Centerbridge and Providence Equity Partners, and banks such as Barclays and RBS. The three shareholders are trying to persuade creditors to write off debt in exchange for equity. Separately, Mediaset has tried persuading UK broadcaster ITV to also …
Time Warner has made an offer to buy Dutch reality TV powerhouse Endemol for $1.4 billion, a deal that would help the Big Brother producer reorganize its sizable debt. It’s a company that is attractive to TW because unscripted reality shows work so well in international markets; besides Big Brother, Endemol’s formats include Deal Or No Deal and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Several creditors would need to approve the deal, first reported by Bloomberg, if it goes through, and Bloomberg said a group including Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset has offered a cash injection to Endemol that would give them a 51% stake. The latest moves come a little more than four months after Endemol CEO Ynon Kreiz departed the company; at the time, Time Warner, ITV and News Corp surfaced as possible suitors for a tie-up.
Report: ITV Crafting Full Takeover Of Debt-Ridden Endemol
Commercial broadcaster ITV is reportedly seeking full control of Dutch giant Endemol if it buys the production company behind Big Brother. ITV is constructing a deal to acquire Endemol by taking on its $2B debt without paying anything for the equity held by Mediaset, Goldman Sachs Capital Partners, and Cyrte Investments. Under the plan, the three shareholders would see some cash, as they are all debt holders. ITV also is in discussions with Mediaset, the media group owned by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, about forming a joint venture to buy Endemol, whose TV formats includes Deal Or No Deal, Total Wipeout and Money Drop.
Inception Acquires World Wide Library For Digital
Sydney-based World Wide Entertainment has sold more than 2,500 hours of programming to Inception Media Group for digital distribution. Santa Monica-based Inception earlier this year acquired and released World Wide’s A Royal Romance: William and Kate and Remembering 9/11. The library, heavy on biographies, contains long-form, episodic and short-form content well-suited for online, VOD and mobile platforms.
MPM Launches Sales Operation With ‘Historias’
Paris-based MPM Film is launching a sales operation with former Celluloid Dreams sales manager Pierre Menahem. The first film to be marketed by Marie-Pierre Macia and Juliette Lepoutre’s company is Historias, written and directed by Brazil’s Julia Murat. The film will screen at the Venice International Film Festival and then play at the Toronto and San Sebastian film festivals.
2ND UPDATE: A key insider at Endemol explains to me, “I think there were issues in the way he ran the company and the decsions he made, and he lost the support of many of the employees. Like when you have a coach of a soccer team the players don’t buy into the way he’s managing the team.” Not only unpopular, Ynon Kreiz exits as Endemol is facing a 900 million euro write-off of loans to the Dutch-based company which produces Big Brother among many other unscripted shows around the world. Endemol also said this month it’s exploring options to restructure its debt as widening losses will cause it to breach covenants on 2.8 billion euros of loans, including 325 million euros of mezzanine debt used to fund its 2007 buyout. Reports are circulating of buyout interest from ITV, Time Warner, and News Corp. “Clearly there are debt issues and we’re going through a financial restructuring. There also was unhappiness with a huge payout to Kreiz, which didn’t sit well,” the key insider tells me. “But from a standpoint of creativity and new shows and long-running franchises and diversification of the company, we’re on solid ground.”
The announcement of a shakeup at the top was made today by Endemol’s shareholder board (different from the usual board of directors) and first published by the Financial Times. The mogul’s exit follows a three-year period of massive dealmaking and restructuring by Kreiz, who has been chairman/CEO of the Dutch-based global leader in entertainment programming and the world’s largest independent television and digital production company since June 1, 2008. Kreiz follows out the door the Endemol chief commercial officer Tom Toumazis, who exited a few weeks ago. (“Believe me, I didn’t send him a fruit basket either,” an insider snarks.) But lest anyone doubt it, Endemol is still alive and well as the unscripted giant produces content and partners with more than 400 broadcasters and cross-media platforms worldwide as part of a global network of more than 80 companies in 26 countries employing about 6,500 people.
Endemol is having a rough time of it. Strangled with debt, the UK-based TV producer has informed lenders it is likely to breach the terms of its loans at the end of 2011. Nevertheless, Endemol is still making acquisitions and has just bought a half-share in Brit gossip website Holy Moly to extend the brand into TV. The site, which in a good month attracts 1 million unique visitors, already made one unsuccessful TV pilot for MTV back in 2009. (DJ presenter Matt Edmondson sat in a cave snarking at celebrity news.) The website’s founder Jamie East tells me he wants to use Endemol’s investment to start covering more TV, fashion, music and film news apart from celebrity tattle,
It’s not just the UK movie business that is suffering from draconian budget cuts because of the global financial crisis. Europe has an enormous hangover, too. And other European film industries are also suffering as EU governments scramble to reduce their debt mountains:
France’s cinema unions say the French Senate finance committee’s plan will have “catastrophic consequences” for French film and TV funding. That’s because France’s government wants to divert €128 million ($175 million) of revenue away from state film agency Centre National du Cinéma et de l’Image Animee (CNC) into its own coffers. This won’t actually be a cut in CNC funding, just limiting next year’s funding increase to a 7.6% improvement on this year’s €575 million ($800 million) budget. The CNC is funded through a levy on cinema admissions – which are estimated to hit 210 million this year, the best for 20 years — as well as a levy on DVD sales, a levy on broadcaster income and a levy on internet service providers. “Internet providers and VOD services are also now paying into the CNC coffers for the first time,” says Franck Priot, deputy head of inward-investment agency Film France. The CNC had been expecting an extra €171 million in income next year.
The government is also making its Sofica tax scheme – which raises money for film production through wealthy individuals – less attractive from an investor’s point of view. Last year 98 French films were financed through Sofica, which …