Court approves TeleMonteCarlo sale

Verdict clears way for creation of rival to RAI, Mediaset

MILAN — Italy’s highest appeals court Wednesday gave Seat Pagine Gialle the greenlight to acquire Vittorio Cecchi Gori’s beleaguered TV group TeleMonteCarlo, after a complicated nine-month legal battle.

The verdict paves the way to create a rival to Italy’s dominant TV networks, pubcaster RAI and premier-elect Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset.

Mediaset was among signatories, including Italy’s Communications Authority and national broadcaster Rete A, who urged the Council of State to bar the Seat-TMC operation. Cecchi Gori also signed, hoping to renegotiate the deal after the amount he stands to receive in Seat shares fell by more than half since August.

“The Council of State … rejects all appeals and upholds the sentence given in the first instance,” the court said Wednesday in its ruling, overturning January’s decision by the Communications Authority to block the $360 million acquisition of TMC by Telecom Italia’s multimedia unit Seat PG.

Third appeal

The Communications Authority, which industry sources consider close to Mediaset, ruled against the acquisition twice, saying it violated Italian antitrust legislation. But both times a regional administrative court revoked the decision and approved the deal. The Communications Authority then appealed the court’s decision to the Council of State.

Under the deal, Seat PG will buy half of struggling TeleMonteCarlo, in which it already has a 25% stake. Seat plans to relaunch the network as La Sette (Seven) this summer and already has hired talent and TV journalists.

Recently, Seat struck a deal with MTV Italia to carry Viacom’s music channel on TMC’s second channel, formerly called TMC2 and now redubbed MTV.