Deal will close Oct. 31

Italy’s De Agostini has pacted to buy French TV production and distribution powerhouse Marathon from private investment fund Bridgepoint, turning the Milan-based multimedia company into a major European content provider.

Marathon, producer of some 350 hours of TV programming a year, including hit toon “Totally Spies” and long-running French export “St. Tropez,” has been on the market since mid-June, when bids were made to Bridgepoint, which holds 70% of the group, and to Marathon’s minority owner-managers, who own 30%.

Bridgepoint bought Marathon two years ago and merged it with toon outfit Tele Images. Another Marathon subsid is Adventure Line Prods., the company be-hind international hit format “Fort Boyard.”

Other bidders for Marathon included French major Gaumont and private equity fund Apax.

The deal will close Oct. 31, De Agostini said in a statement, without specifying the price. Estimates have valued Marathon at roughly E300 million ($408 mil-lion).

Marathon, France’s second-largest TV and Web content company, posted E83 million ($114 million) in sales in 2006.

Earlier this year De Agostini acquired Italian TV production company Magnolia, which brings “Celebrity Survivor” to Italians, after swooping in on Italian film distributor Mikado. The group has a longstanding partnership with Spain’s Planeta and a minority stake in Spain’s Antena 3 web.

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