CME to buy Czech b’caster TV Nova

Acquisition worth $642 million in cash and stock

PRAGUE — Central European Media Enterprises has agreed to buy Czech broadcaster TV Nova, the station it set up in 1994 but lost in a fight with local partners that cost the Czech Republic $355 million in damages for failing to protect CME’s rights.

The Bermuda-based firm, controlled by U.S. cosmetics empire heir Ronald Lauder, said the acquisition of a 56% stake from Czech financial group PPF was worth $642 million in cash and stock.

Czech media had earlier reported PPF was about to sell its stake to Germany’s RTL Group, controlled by Bertelsmann.

“TV Nova will double the size of CME revenues and add significant operating and net income,” CME chief executive Michael Garin said in the statement.

CME is winning back a key asset it had nurtured in the 1990s before Nova’s controversial director Vladimir Zelezny, who held the station’s broadcasting license, pulled the plug on CME in 1999 and relaunched the station with Czech backers and with the help of the Czech Broadcasting Council.

A series of court battles failed to reinstate CME as controlling party, but the Nasdaq-listed company won $355 million in damages from the Czech Republic government last year for failing to protect its rights.

In the meantime, PPF took control of the station.

CME operates stations in Croatia, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine.

The deal is expected to be completed next year after it is approved by regulators.

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