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Telepiu taps Rasini prexy; Rupe nears deal

Gout ankles as Oz mogul gets price down to $1 bil

MILAN — Telepiu, the struggling pay TV operation controlled by Vivendi Universal’s Canal Plus, has appointed Mario Rasini president of the company, replacing Emmanuel Gout, who had been Telepiu’s prexy since January 2001.

Rasini, 49, has been with Telepiu since 1990, when Silvio Berlusconi created Italy’s first pay TV operator.

He remained at Telepiu even when Italy’s antitrust legislation forced Berlusconi to sell the pay TV network. Rasini has been in charge of rights negotiations with Italian football teams since 1993 and formerly was also served as head of programming.

Gout’s resignation is part of the expected withdrawal of the Gallic group from the Italian operator, as the sale of Telepiu to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. is getting closer.

The cash-and-debt deal will be announced very soon, with a cut-price deal worth close to $1 billion after the Australian-American tycoon seemed to have succeeded in his attempt to knock down Telepiu’s original $1.5 billion price tag.

News Corp. and Vivendi U signed a preliminary agreement in June that will see Stream consume Telepiu. However, Murdoch failed to drum up local financial support for a merged entity on a trip to Italy in July when he met the top execs of all major banks and industrial groups.

After a summer pause hiatus, merger talks started up again at the beginning of September as a fierce dispute between Italy’s soccer clubs and pay TV operators over broadcast rights raised uncertainty over the value of Telepiu and paving the way to the renegotiate the deal.

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