Fremantle has acquired a 70% stake in Italy’s Lux Vide, the prominent TV production company that has been steadily raising its standing in the international arena, most recently with the high-end TV series “Medici,” “Devils” and “Leonardo.”

The long-gestating Lux Vide deal, which closed on Thursday, marks the latest acquisition by the expanding RTL-owned production and distribution giant. Fremantle, which has been on a buying spree, now owns or controls a panoply of independently operated production shingles across Europe, as well as in Israel, Australia and the U.S.

Their stated goal is to invest and grow in the global scripted arena where, by their count, Fremantle delivered 81 scripted shows in 2021, including BBC One hit “The Responder,” HBO Max series “Lust,” from Sweden’s Miso Film, and Italian dystopian drama “Anna.”

Previous Fremantle investments include acquiring the 12 former Nent Studios production labels in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark (now rebranded This is Nice Group); Australian-American television production company Eureka Productions; U.K.-based Naked Entertainment; French label Kwai; and Israel’s Abot Hameiri, among others.

The Lux purchase also marks Fremantle’s third acquisition of a production company in Italy, where the company already owns Wildside and The Apartment, the outfit behind Paolo Sorrentino’s Oscar-nominated “The Hand of God.” Fremantle also recently inked a pact with Italy’s Cinecittà involving the long-term rental of six sound stages at the iconic Rome studios.

Founded in 1992 by Ettore Bernabei, who was a long-time former chief of Italian pubcaster RAI, Lux Vide has since been headed by his progeny, Matilde and Luca Bernabei. They have been increasingly pushing into the U.S. and international markets with high-end premium shows such as “Leonardo,” starring Aidan Turner and Matilda De Angelis, and upcoming “The Rising,” an English-language drama series about the human and secular story of Jesus Christ, while also continuing to churn out local linear product for RAI and Mediaset.

Since the mid-90s Lux Vide has grown to become a production powerhouse, delivering successful high-end shows to companies including Netflix, Amazon Prime and Sky, besides local generalist broadcasters. Lux Vide owns five state-of-the-art sound stages outside Rome, making it the only fully integrated Italian indie TV production studio.

Under the terms of the deal — which was first revealed to be in negotiations in September 2021 — the Bernabei family will retain the remaining 30% Lux stake not owned by Fremantle. Luca Bernabei (pictured, left) will continue as CEO of Lux Vide, while Andrea Scrosati (pictured, right) who is Fremantle group COO, and also its continental Europe chief, will take the role of Lux Vide chairman. Matilde Bernabei will become honorary chairman and also serve on Lux’s management board. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Andrea Scrosati and Luca Bernabei spoke exclusively to Variety about the Lux Vide deal.

Andrea, what drove you to pursue this deal?

Scrosati: Fremantle’s goal is to grow and to do this both organically and through mergers and acquisitions. In the second instance, since our business is based on people, ideas and talents, there is an essential element which is compatibility in terms of projects, work modality and a basic culturally affinity, if you will.

Lux fits into this category. We’ve created a network made up by labels that stand for excellence in their respective countries. In the global market in which we are operating, our model is based on working with the top global talents who produce content and IP and productions that are born locally but can travel globally. So it’s a win-win both for the group and the company we are partnering with. The group can provide 360-degree support to maximize the value of its local productions. But we need Lux’s vision to do this. It’s a perfect fit.

Why is Fremantle becoming so active in Italy?

Scrosati: First off, we wanted to be in a partnership with Lux because it’s a great company. Having said that, Italy is a very important territory for Fremantle. It’s one of the group’s top three territories, and the reason for this is due to a combination of factors. First, the extraordinary creative and technical capability that is present in Italy. Italy has always been an extraordinary hotbed of creativity and talent. But what’s happened over the past two decades is that, along with this, the country has developed an execution capability at the highest international standards. This makes Italy particularly interesting. On top of that, there is the infrastructure, the unique locations and the fact that the government in past years has supported the industry with a system of really well-conceived and generous tax rebates.

Right now, for Fremantle to have a cluster of companies that can share their know-how, creative and talent relationships is a great opportunity in Italy. With Wildside and The Apartment, we already have some incredible teams that stand for excellence throughout the group. These are the teams that produced fantastic products such as “The Hand of God,” which is in the running for an Oscar, and “My Brilliant Friend.” 

Luca, how is this long-gestating deal structured? And why did you sell to Fremantle?

Bernabei: Up until now the Bernabei family held a 53% stake in Lux, and therefore a majority stake. With this deal we are selling the majority stake, and holding on to a 30% stake, at least for the next five years.

We chose to sell to Fremantle because we’ve always been impressed by Andrea’s management skills. There are very few managers at his level in Italy and I’ve always closely followed his moves at Fremantle. When we met, I was very impressed not just by him but by Fremantle’s entire management team. It’s very interesting for me to be able to tap into the synergies in this group, both in Italy and globally. We are living in an increasingly complex world. The way to react to this complexity is to have access to more information and exchange. I was very curious about being able to be part of such a big company, with so many components to it.

Next week, 100 Fremantle people from around the world will convene in Rome. And we will be able to exchange information as partners! Up until now I have never done this with other producers because at some level they have always been my antagonists. Now, if I need an Israeli talent, I will call Andrea and he will put me in touch with one. This is the real winning element of this deal: The construction of a conglomerate of managers, producers, and talents in order to do bigger things. If we don’t to this, it’s hard to survive in this increasingly globalized world.

Andrea, in terms of Fremantle’s investment in Lux, does this rate as one of the highest since you’ve been with the company?

Scrosati: As you probably know, our shareholder RTL has a set a €3 billion revenue target for 2025 for Fremantle. This means we are doing a lot of investments. I can say this is an important investment; but it’s in line with other investments we have done.

Let’s drill down on the synergies. Is it conceivable that there can be forms of direct collaboration between Lux and Fremantle’s other units in Italy? And also globally?

Scrosati: Fremantle already operates in a lot of different territories with several different labels, either fully owned or majority controlled. This works fantastically, and it’s based on a very fundamental concept of editorial independence of each label. The real synergy, and the real opportunity, is what Luca was mentioning before. It’s the fact that every single label is part of a global network and can have creative exchange, talent exchange and, frankly, also business exchange. We operate in a market with global players. Having negotiated with these players intensively means that we can offer our network a view of what would be the business terms that these players will want to apply. That is an important component.

The number one point is the following: in the world in which we operate today, there is an array of potential clients and content hubs that is very vast. The producer’s job is to invest in talent and ideas; develop those ideas; make them become the best possible show in the world and then find the right home for that show.

Luca, at a more basic level I think this deal gives Lux the broader shoulders it needs. Am I right?

Bernabei: This company founded by my father, who was a former head of RAI, has always had a strong international outlook. And his vision has taught us to have a ‘mini-major’ approach and to strive for the level of quality that big international networks demand. But today the market is moving so fast that to be an international player you need the synergies we’ve been talking about. If a top series in Europe costs €25 million; in the U.S. the starting point is €50. So having this synergy allows us to stay in this market.

Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Lux Vide won an Emmy for the film “Joseph” from The Bible Collection. The company was a co-producer on “Joseph” and is not among the winners listed when the film won an Emmy in 1995, who are: TNT, Laura Fattori, Lorenzo Minoli, and Gerald Rafshoon. The error has been corrected.