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Telefonica taps media prez

Now official, Nieto to work on Endemol relations, prep co. for IPO

MADRID — Juan Jose Nieto has been named president of giant Telefonica Media (TM), the most important position in the Spanish film and TV industry.

In a separate development, former TM prexy Jose Antonio Rios has been tapped a board member of the Telefonica-owned Dutch TV giant Endemol.

In early August, Cesar Alierta, Juan Villalonga’s substitute as Telefonica prexy since July 1999, summarily dismissed TM’s then-nonexecutive president, Manuel Garcia Duran.

From that time, top execs at TM companies have been reporting to Nieto, already the managing director and No. 2 at the conglom. His appointment to the top spot was widely expected.

Unlike Garcia Duran, Nieto will assume full day-to-day powers at TM.

Nieto’s appointment should sound a note of stability at TM. Nieto, 33, is regarded as a no-strings-attached professional and thorough company manager.

Expansive career

He was a popular No. 2 to Rios during a period of spectacular media expansion at Telefonica beginning in October 1999, which included the takeover of Argentine broadcasters Telefe and Canal Azul, the purchase of Endemol, and the proposed $12.5 billion buy-up of U.S. portal Lycos Communications by Telefonica’s Internet operator Terra Networks.

This period ended in June when Rios was replaced by Garcia Duran as TM prexy, one of the last decisions made by Juan Villalonga as Telefonica president.

Sources scoffed at Spanish press rumors that Telefonica will now attempt to sell off its media interests.

Nieto will, however, probably keep his head low as he sorts out some big challenges.

One is to establish working synergies between TM and Endemol, which looks set to remain outside TM as a separate unit in Telefonica. Another is to marshal TM’s disparate media interests into a potentially profit-making concern in the run-up to its IPO, now skedded for 2001.

Rios will abandon executive responsibilities at Telefonica, where he has served since June as prexy of Telefonica call-center Atento. With Rios now on the Endemol board, however, Alierta will still be able to draw on Rios’ industry experience.

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