Hedge funds, banks may take control

Rejecting Time Warner’s latest bid, Endemol’s lenders have given the cash-strapped Dutch content giant a waiver extension until February.

Hedge funds and banks now appear poised to take control of Endemol, as the process of restructuring the “Big Brother” maker’s $3.7 billion debt continues.

Sources close to the negotiations confirmed that the Royal Bank of Scotland and Lehman Brothers, two of the main lenders, as well as shareholders Cyrte and Goldman Sachs have given Endemol the third extension on its debt payment since September.

On Monday, Time Warner made a $1.3 billion cash offer for Endemol, which the lenders rejected. Endemol did not comment on reports that a debt-for-equity swap is now underway, which would slash $2.6 billion in loans and hand management to the lenders.

If that happens, Mediaset, Silvio Berlusconi’s Italo broadcasting giant which owns one-third of Endemol and has made an offer for a majority stake, would see its holding greatly diluted to the point of no longer being an Endemol board member.

Mediaset and Italian equity fund Clessidra have reportedly offered to inject more than $500 million in Endemol to raise their 33% stake to 51%, with lenders owning the minority interest.

Within the next two months, it is possible that Mediaset may up its offer and renegotiate with lenders or it could reconfigure its role in Endemol to become an industrial partner.

There was no comment from Mediaset.

In 2007, Mediaset, Goldman Sachs Capital Partners and Cyrte, the investment company in which Endemol co-founder John de Mol is a minority shareholder, paid $3.5 billion for Telefonica’s controlling stake in Endemol in a three-way split. But they largely used leveraged loans that now weigh heavily on the unscripted TV giant, whose formats also include “Deal or No Deal” and “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”

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