Vivendi sues Mediaset in Italy over pan-European plan

MILAN (Reuters) - French media group Vivendi VIV.PA has filed a lawsuit against Italian broadcaster Mediaset MS.MI, seeking to invalidate the decisions of a shareholder meeting that last month approved a corporate overhaul, Mediaset said on Thursday.

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Vivendi, led by tycoon Vincent Bollore, has been a hostile Mediaset shareholder since the two sides fell out in 2016 over an aborted pay-TV deal.

After the failed pay-TV sale, the French group built a 29% stake in Mediaset - a holding that the Italian group considers illegitimate. The two sides have been in a legal war ever since.

Milan-based Mediaset, which is controlled by the family of former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, has since set up a plan to merge with its Spanish subsidiary Mediaset Espana TL5.MC under a Dutch holding company to help create a pan-European player.

Vivendi, which has plans of its own to become a European media powerhouse, opposes the ongoing overhaul saying the new entity’s governance strengthens the grip the Berlusconis have on the group.

It has already brought legal proceedings against Mediaset’s plan in Spain and in the Netherlands.

In a statement on Thursday, Mediaset said it had been notified that a lawsuit had now been filed in Italy too, adding that a court hearing had been scheduled for Jan. 10, 2020.

It said Vivendi was also seeking unspecified damages from Mediaset and the Berlusconi family holding company, Fininvest, saying their actions had hurt the value of its Mediaset stake.

Mediaset’s merger plan was approved by a Sept. 4 shareholder meeting where Vivendi was allowed to vote only with the 9.99% Mediaset stake it owns directly - not enough to block the deal on its own.

Two-thirds of Vivendi’s stake in Mediaset is held through an arms-length trust which Mediaset prevented from participating in the Sept. 4 meeting.

Reporting by Silvia Aloisi; Editing by Alexandra Hudson