Berlusconi company cuts ties with content giant

ROME – Mediaset has sold its stake in Endemol, ending the strategic alliance between Italy’s top commercial broadcaster and the global production powerhouse best known for “Big Brother.”

Mediaset’s surprise move follows Endemol’s recent $2.6 billion debt restructuring, in which control of the company shifted from Mediaset to its creditors, mainly Leon Black’s private equity firm Apollo Global Management and Dutch investment firm Cyrte Investments, which gained majority ownership of Endemol.

Mediaset bought 33% of Endemol in a consortium with Goldman Sachs Group and Cyrte in 2007. After January’s debt-to-equity swap deal, it was left with 6% of Endemol’s senior debt.

Mediaset did not disclose the sale price for its entire Endemol stake, but according to Italian financial daily Il Sole 24 Ore, it went for about $96 million.

In January, Mediaset ruled out a sale, saying it wanted to remain Endemol’s main media industry partner.

But in March, Mediaset posted a 36% drop in profit to $297 million due to Italy’s advertising downturn, forcing it to slash its usually large dividend. The broadcaster is also believed to be suffering from a loss of political clout now that its owner, Silvio Berlusconi, is no longer prime minister.

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