News Corp., Telecom are Stream team

Cecchi Gori sells stake in digital platform

MILAN — Just weeks after asserting that Rupert Murdoch and Telecom Italia were trying to push him out of pay TV operator Stream, Italy’s top film producer and distributor Vittorio Cecchi Gori has sold his 18% stake in the country’s digital platform Stream to the Australian-American mogul and Italy’s telco giant.

“It was a strategic choice. We will remain a supplier of content and services to Stream,” Cecchi Gori said in a statement Wednesday.

Italian soccer consortium SDS sold its 12% stake in Stream to Murdoch’s News Corp. and Telecom Italia, which each have a 50% stake in the pay TV operator.

News Corp. and Telecom paid Cecchi Gori and SDS $60 million and $40 million, respectively, for their stakes, and invested a further $300 million as a capital increase in Stream.

The refinancing of the pay TV operator, which posted a 1999 loss of $225 million on revenues of just $45 million, was necessary to relaunch Stream, according to News Corp. and Telecom Italia. Both Cecchi Gori and SDS refused to subscribe to the refinancing and were forced to exit.

Cecchi Gori and SDS posted a large gain on their stakes, for which they jointly paid $60 million last year and have now sold for $100 million.

Vice minister for communications Vincenzo Vita said that Cecchi Gori’s exit creates “a very serious problem for Stream,” as 50% of the company now belongs to a foreign company.

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