Holding company to shell out $1 billion

MILAN — Fininvest, the holding company that contains Italo Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset TV empire, was dealt a severe blow Oct. 3 when a Milan civil court ordered it to pay industrialist Carlo De Benedetti’s CIR holding company 750 million euros ($1 billion) in compensation.

The ruling concerns Fininvest’s acquisition of a controlling stake in publishing house Mondadori from De Benedetti in 1991.

In 2007 a criminal court found Berlusconi’s former lawyer and ally Cesare Previti had bribed a judge to rule in favor of Fininvest in the takeover battle. Berlusconi himself was cleared of responsibility

“After almost 20 years since the fraudulent action that caused our group to lose its legitimate ownership of Mondadori, and following the verdict which confirmed definitively in the criminal court that a judge had been corrupted, at last we have justice in the civil court as well,” De Benedetti, now CIR’s honorary chairman, said in a statement Oct. 3.

In a statement issued the same day, Fininvest called the civil ruling “profoundly unjust.” Marina Berlusconi, head of Fininvest and the daughter of the prime minister, said the company would launch an appeal against the court’s decision.

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