French powerhouse in takeover talks

Marathon poised for sale to Italo group

PARIS — Italy’s De Agostini Group is days away from striking a multimillion-euro deal to acquire French TV production and distribution powerhouse Marathon.

Exclusive negotiations with Bridgepoint, the private equity fund that holds 70% of the Gallic outfit, could result in a deal as soon as Friday.

Estimates have valued Marathon at around E300 million ($408 million).

Acquisition would add a Gallic string to the Italian company’s bow. The world’s 10th biggest publisher, De Agostini has Italian TV and film interests including the production outfit Magno-lia plus feature film producer/distributor Mikado. It also is a stockholder in Spanish TV channel Antena 3.

Bridgepoint bought Marathon, producer of long-running French export “St. Tropez” and hit toon “Totally Spies,” two years ago and merged it with Tele Images.

Adventure Line Prods., the company behind international hit format “Fort Boyard,” is another subsid.

Marathon produces some 350 hours of programming a year. Its annual revenue is around $162 million.

Gaumont, France’s oldest film company, and private equity fund Apax were among other contenders vying to take over Marathon.

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