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MGM wins suit over U.K. chain

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer has prevailed over Giancarlo Parretti and Giovanni Di Stefano in a dispute over the company’s profitable U.K. theater chain.

The High Court of England ruled that the Italian financiers have no stake whatsoever in the 416-screen circuit.

Two MGM subsidiaries, Cinema 5 UK Ltd. and Cannon Exhibition Ltd., are due “substantial” damages from Parretti and Di Stefano for “conspiring to defraud,” the court ruled March 30. (Cannon Exhibition recently was renamed MGM Intl. Cinemas.)

“This is one more sign that the Parretti era is vanishing, hopefully once and for all,” an MGM spokesman told Daily Variety.

Parretti is the onetime owner of MGM-Pathe.

Named as defendants in the suit were Di Stefano, his wife Tanja and his company Sandhurst Assets Inc.; Parretti, members of his family and his Luxembourg-based Comfinance Intl.

Damages, including legal fees, will be determined in the next few weeks, the MGM spokesman said.

MGM’s reasoning

According to MGM, the court upheld the subsids’ claims “that the defendants had conspired to defraud them of the shares in Cannon Exhibition Ltd. and had also fraudulently granted bogus securities to Comfinance Intl. S.A.”

The judge also ruled, MGM said, “that the documents on which the defendants had relied were prepared in bad faith and were intended to deceive with the aim of depriving Cinema 5 (UK) Ltd. and Cannon Exhibition Ltd. of their assets.”

The MGM spokesman added, “In a nutshell, Di Stefano was claiming ownership in the cinemas in the U.K., which were and are owned by MGM.”

The basis of Di Stefano’s claim were his shares in Parretti’s Comfinance, which the spokesman said was “used as one of the financing conduits to acquire MGM” in the $ 1.3 billion leveraged buyout of the studio.

Di Stefano claim dissed

Di Stefano “claimed to be an owner in those theaters because they were hard assets that he could use as collateral for loans or turn around and sell for cash,” the MGM spokesman said. “So the company had to put a stop to it and effectively did.”

MGM maintains ownership of the 416 screens in the U.K.

“We are extremely pleased by this clear victory against the continuing attempts by Parretti’s companies and associates to disrupt the company’s operations,” MGM co-chair/co-CEOs Alan Ladd Jr. and Dennis Stanfill said in the release.

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