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Moves boost Murdoch's Telepiu ties

MILAN — Rupert Murdoch has moved to keep Telecom Italia an eligible party in his battle to merge their cash-strapped paybox Stream with Vivendi Universal’s equally hard-up Telepiu to create a single pay TV company in Italy.

Stream appointed Telecom Italia CEO Enrico Biondi prexy of the digital platform on Monday, while Marty Pompadour, a close associate of Murdoch and executive VP of News Corp., becomes CEO.

Telecom Italia, which owns 50% of Stream, had wanted to exit the costly pay TV venture. But Murdoch needs to keep the conglom in the mix to appease antitrust authorities in Italy and the European Union.

The two appointments have been interpreted in media circles as a sign of closer cooperation between Telecom Italia and News Corp.

Telecom Italia now looks likely to join forces with Murdoch and a number of financial investors in the Stream/Telepiu merger.

Looking for a deal

News Corp. is currently trying to renegotiate the terms of the $1.5 billion acquisition with Viv U. European and Italian antitrust authorities have yet to announce their decisions over the creation of a single pay TV operator in Italy.

The new entity would end up with News Corp. controlling 50%, Telecom Italia with a 19% stake and the remaining 31% in the hands of European and Italian banks, a News Corp. source said recently.

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