Silvio Berlusconi Expelled From Italian Parliament
Italy’s senate on Wednesday expelled former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi from his parliamentary seat over his August conviction for tax fraud. This will be the first time the Mediaset chief will not hold an elected office in about 20 years. The New York Times notes that without the protections afforded to lawmakers, Berlusconi is now more vulnerable in other legal cases against him. Reuters quoted Berlusconi as saying to his Forza Italia party, “We are here on a bitter day, a day of mourning for democracy.”
MGM International TV Distribution Inks Deal With Turkey’s D-Smart
Turkish digital platform D-Smart, a subsidiary of Dogan TV Holding, has inked a multi-year first pay deal with MGM International Television Distribution. The exclusive deal gives D-Smart access to new releases and library titles. The package will include the Hobbit trilogy, Carrie, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, Four Weddings And A Funeral and the Pink Panther movies, among others. In addition to linear distribution, D-Smart will also offer the films via SVOD through its digital service, D-Smart Blu. Read More »
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 »
Following France and India, this is the latest installment in Deadline’s series of reports on the people, projects and polemics that have folks buzzing in various overseas territories.
Italy’s movie business continues to get slammed harder and harder as part of the country’s overall economic crisis. Lately, a kerfuffle over production tax credits threatens to further stymie growth while the country’s government may be on the brink of collapse given media mogul/former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s legal troubles. And, the lack of a strong VOD offer continues to bedevil an industry plagued by piracy. There have been some bright spots this year including Giuseppe Tornatore’s Warner Bros.-produced The Best Offer which was well-received by audiences and awards bodies and managed to travel some. Meanwhile, local comedy Il Principe Abusivo is currently the No. 2 film at the box office for the year with over $18M in receipts, but that’s a drop from high-performing comedies of recent years. Italian industry execs are not entirely glum, and some are taking the optimistic view that crisis can lead to renewal, but caution still dominates.
Although Rai acquired Sean Penn starrer The Gunman from Studiocanal in Cannes this year – the first straight buy its made in a year – watchers say this doesn’t mean a complete shift. With traditional film partners pulling back on investing, a local distributor says, “It’s almost impossible to finance a movie today. Even if you’re lucky enough to get TV, the amount of money is a lot less than it used to be. Most Italian movies don’t travel” so they “have to make money back inside the territory.” If a movie “ends up getting recognition abroad, that’s icing. It can’t be part of your plan.”
Exacerbating the financing issue is the current production tax credit crisis. Plans are not entirely set in stone, but the government is expected to push forward with a massive cut to the annual 90M euro ($117.6M) fund that gets doled out on a first-come-first-served basis. The credits are expected to be extended for the next three years according to local sources, but the war chest will drop severely to 45M euros or less per year. Italian unions have understandably been up in arms, but an exec tells me, “Given the overall circumstances – everybody has tax cuts – I would say it’s very coherent with what’s happening in the country.” New measures should be entered into the law later this year.
What the cuts mean in reality is that “a lot of movies aren’t going to get made.” In turn, insiders believe that will impact the emergence of new talent. “Up-and-comers are having a very difficult time because fewer films are being produced, and the ones that are being produced seem to be from surefire auteurs. A lot of would-be new talent isn’t getting a shot,” I’m told. Read More »
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.
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.
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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.
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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 »
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.
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.
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.