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UPDATE: Silvio Berlusconi Tax Fraud Verdict Upheld By Italy’s Highest Court

By | Thursday August 1, 2013 @ 12:50pm PDT

UPDATE, 12:50 PM: Italy’s Supreme Court has upheld the tax fraud verdict and one-year prison sentence for billionaire Italian politician/media mogul Silvio Berlusconi, but because of his age (he’s 76) it’s unlikely he’ll go to jail, the BBC reports. The court did order a review of a five-year ban on public office that was part of the original sentence. Berlusconi faces house arrest or community service according to the report. The ruling today by Rome’s Court of Cassation came after a three-day hearing.

PREVIOUS, Tuesday: Italy’s Supreme Court will deliver its verdict in the tax fraud case against billionaire Italian politician/media mogul Silvio Berlusconi either tomorrow evening or on Thursday, his attorney said today. The court started hearing the case today and is the last stop on the appeals circuit for the Mediaset chief. He was sentenced in October last year to four years in prison and a five-year ban from politics for having inflated prices paid for broadcast rights to U.S. movies and TV shows via offshore companies controlled by his Fininvest holding company. Berlusconi and other execs were then alleged to have skimmed off part of the money to create illegal slush funds. Mediaset has benefited from an essentially free pass in terms of antitrust and other rules thanks to Berlusconi’s place in politics. But if the mogul were no longer allowed to stand for office, the conglomerate could be subject to any number of unfavorable new laws. Shares in Mediaset and other companies controlled by Fininvest were all up in trading today. Read More »

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Italian TV Mogul Silvio Berlusconi Convicted

By | Monday June 24, 2013 @ 9:35am PDT

Mediaset chief and former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is racking up the jail sentences. In March, he was handed a one-year jail term over an illegal wiretap, and in 2012 received a four-year sentence over fraudulent movie rights deals. He is appealing both. Today, a Milan court sentenced him to seven years in jail for paying for sex with a minor and then using his political powers to cover up the incident. The minor in question, a former teenage nightclub dancer who went by the stage name “Ruby the Heartstealer,” attended the infamous “bunga bunga” sex parties at Berlusconi’s home near Milan, Reuters notes. Berlusconi is likely to appeal and will not serve any jail time until all appeal attempts are exhausted.

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Silvio Berlusconi Sentenced To Four Years In Jail For Fraud On Movie Rights Deals

By | Friday October 26, 2012 @ 8:55am PDT

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. Read More »

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Mediaset Exits Endemol With Debt Sale

By | Tuesday April 3, 2012 @ 8:16am PDT

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.

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Time Warner Refines $1.4B Bid For Endemol

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.

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Berlusconi’s Mediaset Co-Bids For Endemol

By | Friday November 25, 2011 @ 2:16pm PST

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.

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Endemol Puts Time Warner’s $1.4B Offer On Hold Pending Debt-For-Equity Swap

By | Monday November 21, 2011 @ 12:16pm PST

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.

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Media Mogul Berlusconi Resigns As Italy PM

By | Saturday November 12, 2011 @ 2:26pm PST

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.

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ABC To Adapt Italian Mafia Drama Series

By | Tuesday October 18, 2011 @ 2:46pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

ABC has put in development Anti-Mafia Squad, a drama based on the 2009 Italian series Squadra Antimafia – Palermo Oggi. David Hollander (The Cleaner) will write the script and executive produce with the original series’ distributor Mediaset, Little Engine’s Gina Matthews and Grant Scharbo and Fluent Media’s Raul Mateu. ABC Studios is producing. The original series, which wrapped its third season in June, is set in today’s Palermo, caught in a war between mafia families for the leadership of Cosa Nostra after the arrest of the last godfather. It centers on two women: deputy chief of police Claudia Mares, who joins a special anti-mafia squad, and young Rosy Abate, a member of one of the oldest criminal clans, who returns to Palermo after a long stay in the U.S. ABC, ABC Studios, Matthews, Scharbo, Mateu and Mediaset originally tried to adapt the ICM-repped format last season, but the project had no writer and was rolled over to this season when CAA-repped Hollander was tapped for the job. I’m not familiar with Squadra Antimafia, but if there is something the Italians know how to do well it is mafia drama series/miniseries. If you haven’t seen the 1980s series La Piovra (The Octopus), I’d highly recommend it. Here is a trailer (in Italian) I found for the second season of Squarda Antimafia: Read More »

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Global Showbiz Briefs: UK, Australia, France

By | Wednesday August 31, 2011 @ 3:00am PDT

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.

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Endemol Chair/CEO Ynon Kreiz Steps Down Amid Financial Restructuring With Lenders

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. Read More »

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Endemol Shareholders May Be Forced To Inject Fresh Equity Before August Deadline

endemol-logoThat’s the only option open to shareholders Mediaset, Goldman Sachs and Cyrte, one media analyst tells me. Whether Mediaset owner Silvio Berlusconi or TV magnate John De Mol, the man behind Cyrte, will be happy doing so is another question. I’m told De Mol in particular would be reluctant. There’s been speculation here that the super-producer will breach its debt covenants as soon as August. Endemol assures me this is not the case. “Given our current outlook, and taking into account the resources already available to the company and its shareholders, we strongly expect to continue to fully comply with our debt covenants for the foreseeable future,” Endemol says.

The company is €2.4 billion ($3 billion) in debt after a 2007 buyout. Combined with the cancellation of Big Brother on Channel 4 and NBC scrapping Deal Or No Deal in the US, it’s argued that the producer’s future is looking pretty bleak.

On the other hand, BBC1 just started an eight-part primetime summer run of the producer’s format 101 Ways to Leave a Gameshow. Fox in the US has commissioned a broadcast pilot of the show. Germany, Brazil and Turkey are making their own versions of the show, where contestants are violently ejected from the quiz.

One option not there anymore is buying back its own debt cheaply and marking it as operating profit. Endemol was rapped on the knuckles for doing that earlier this year, although it was perfectly allowable. Hedge funds representing … Read More »

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