Silvio, Rupe in talks

Murdoch mulls taking stake in Italy's Mediaset

MILAN — Italy’s TV tycoon-turned-politician Silvio Berlusconi is reportedly continuing to discuss a deal with global media mogul Rupert Murdoch which may involve a stake in the former’s TV empire, Mediaset.

According to Il Sole 24 Ore, one of the most prestigious dailies in Italy, Murdoch’s News Corp. is negotiating to buy a substantial minority stake in Mediaset.

But News Corp. denied it was in any such talks about a stake in Mediaset. A spokeswoman for the company in New York said, “News Corp. is not in any talks with Mediaset.”

For his part, Berlusconi reiterated Wednesday that Mediaset is talking with Murdoch, as well as with other potential partners, and stressed that these talks would be aimed at “international collaboration efforts.”

Bringing in an outside investor on the order of Murdoch into Mediaset would radically alter the TV landscape in Italy. It would also, at a stroke, resolve the ongoing accusations of conflict of interest that have dogged Berlusconi’s political career.

Negotiations between the two moguls was also reported by a primetime newscast Thursday on Canale 5, Mediaset’s flagship station.

The newscast also said that Berlusconi would take the next three days to consider Murdoch’s offer, without specifying precisely what that offer was.

Most analysts believe that the acquisition of a controlling 50% stake in Mediaset would be too expensive for Murdoch.

In 1995, Murdoch was said to have offered $2.6 billion for the control of the TV group. After long and exhausting talks, Berlusconi reportedly rejected his offer and preferred to launch part of Mediaset on the stock market.

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