MILAN — Vittorio Cecchi Gori is negotiating the sale of a minority stake in his TV and film empire to Rupert Murdoch, Italian daily paper La Repubblica reported Wednesday.
Neither the Cecchi Gori Group nor Murdoch’s News Corp. would confirm the report.For the last few months, Italy’s top film producer and distributor has been looking for a strong international partner to relaunch his beleaguered free on-air TV channels TMC and TMC2, and get an infusion of financial energy in his media company.
Little is enough
Murdoch is believed to be interested in expanding his presence in Italy, even with the acquisition of only a minority stake.
Cecchi Gori and Murdoch are already partners in digital platform Stream, in which the global tycoon has a 35% stake and the Italian producer controls an 18% stake.
Despite being a shareholder of Stream, Cecchi Gori has continued to sell his films to Stream’s archrival Telepiu, Italy’s dominant digital TV platform. By taking a stake in the Cecchi Gori Group, Murdoch would create a much tighter link between the film group and Stream.
“I am worried about the talks. It’s not a matter of protectionism but of possible expansion of Murdoch’s presence in free, terrestrial television,” Italy’s Vincenzo Vita, vice minister for telecommunications, said Wednesday. Earlier this year, Vita opposed Murdoch’s acquisition of a stake in Stream.
But Michele Lauria, another vice minister for telecommunications, reacted more positively.
“I don’t see anything strange in these negotiations. Recently, Italy’s electric company Enel took a 30% stake in Telepiu, which is controlled by France’s Canal Plus. So, why should I criticize the TMC-Murdoch negotiations? It’s the market. We have just to be sure that all rules and regulations are respected,” Lauria said.