MILAN, Aug 4 – Italy’s Mediaset has called a board meeting on Wednesday to discuss a letter sent by its second-largest shareholder, Vivendi, saying it was ready to negotiate a deal to end their row, a source said on Tuesday.
Italy’s top commercial broadcaster, which is controlled by the family of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, approved a plan to merge its Italian and Spanish businesses under a Dutch holding company to pursue tie-ups with other peers in Europe.
But stiff opposition from Vivendi, which says the governance structure of the new entity would strengthen the Berlusconis’ grip over the group, has bogged down the project in court.
Last week, a Spanish judge rejected Mediaset’s request to lift a suspension of the plan which was put on hold following a challenge by Vivendi, led by French billionaire Vincent Bollore.
Mediaset at that time said Vivendi’s opposition was damaging the Italian group and the entire European broadcasting system.
In a letter sent to Mediaset’s board members after the ruling by the Spanish judge, Vivendi said it was available to settle a dispute over Mediaset’s corporate overhaul plan, provided it included a governance structure to protect minority shareholders, two sources familiar with the matter said.
Vivendi and Mediaset have been at odds since 2016 when the French conglomerate pulled out of an 800 million-euro agreement to buy Mediaset’s loss-making pay-TV unit, which prompted a multibillion-euro damage request by the Milan-based broadcaster.
Vivendi went on to build a 29% stake in Mediaset, a move the Italian broadcaster considers hostile.
A legal case has been ongoing ever since, while attempts to clinch a wider settlement have so far proven unsuccessful.
Mediaset declined to comment. Vivendi was not immediately available for comment. (Reporting by Elvira Pollina in Milan Editing by Matthew Lewis)