- Vivendi turns to courts over Mediaset shareholder dispute
- Mediaset blocked Vivendi from voting in shareholder meetings
- Case set to be heard in November
Vivendi has launched a lawsuit against Mediaset in an effort to assert its rights as a shareholder in the Italian broadcaster.
Mediaset announced that it has received a writ of summons from Vivendi through a court in Milan asking it to annul a shareholder resolution that sought to block Vivendi’s participation in shareholder meetings.
The resolution, which was approved in April at an extraordinary shareholders meeting, refused to allow Vivendi representatives to vote in meetings, despite the fact that the French company owns a 28% stake in the company.
- Read more: Mediaset merges Italy and Spain businesses
In its filing to the Milan court, Vivendi said it wants recognition that it is the legitimate owner of its shareholding – split between a direct stake amounting to 9.61% and 19.19% held through an independent entity - meaning it can exercise rights associated with those shares, including voting rights.
The court action by Vivendi will heighten its three-year dispute with Mediaset founder Silvio Berlusconi and his family, who are the biggest shareholders in the Italian broadcast through holding company Fininvest, which owns a 44% stake.
The April resolution excluding Vivendi essentially consolidated former Italian prime minister Berlusconi’s control over Mediaset at a time when the company is looking to set up a Dutch holding company as part of an effort to build a pan-European media footprint. Last month, Mediaset announced plans to merge its Spanish and Italian units in one holding company, Media for Europe, which will be headquartered in the Netherlands.
According to Bloomberg, the court hearing over the issue has been scheduled for 26 November, which means it will fall after Mediaset’s restructure. Mediaset CEO Pier Silvio Berlusconi said last week that he didn’t think Vivendi would block the Dutch move.
Mediaset claims that Vivendi acquired its stake in the company through illegitimate means, a claim which Vivendi disputes. Mediaset has accused Vivendi of manipulating the Italian firm’s share price by pulling out of a deal to buy Mediaset’s pay TV arm in 2016.
Another issue that has caused Vivendi problems with Mediaset is its stake in Telecom Italia, Italy’s national telecoms company, in which Vivendi holds a 24% stake. As it increased its share in the Italian telco, it caught the eye of Italian regulators due to Italy’s TUSMAR rule, which prevents companies from holding large stakes in both telecoms and media companies. Italy also has stringent rules about foreign ownership of assets of national important.
To meet the TUSMAR rule, Vivendi branched off two thirds of its Mediaset stake into Simon Fiducaria. Vivendi claims it should be able to exercise certain rights related to that 19.19% stake.