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Mediaset sells Endemol stake

Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset has sold its stake in Endemol, giving Apollo Global Management and John de Mol-backed Cyrte majority ownership in the Big Brother producer.

The Italian media conglomerate said today it has sold its remaining 6% stake in the Dutch production house, following a debt restructure that handed control of the company to creditors.

According to Italian financial newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, the sale is valued at over €70m (US$94m). Endemol, which has been wrestling with a €2.8bn debt restructure confirmed the sale, but declined to comment further.

Mediaset bought a third of Endemol in 2007, together with Goldman Sachs and Cyrte Investments – a fund that’s often most closely associated with Endemol founder de Mol, though he is only one of 12 parties with money in the pot.

Endemol said earlier this year it had reached an agreement with a “significant” number of lenders to lower its debts following a protracted period of talks – a move that would reduce the €2.8bn figure closer to the €500m mark.

Mediaset previously put forward its own restructuring plan with private investment group Clessidra and was once linked to a possible joint bid together with the UK’s ITV. This never materialised, however, though two bids for Endemol from Time Warner – the latter a €1.3bn all-cash offer – were turned down in favour of a debt-for-equity deal.

The company is still without a CEO following the exit of Ynon Kreiz last year, though the firm hired headhunters in August to begin the hunt for a replacement. The debt-for-equity deal needs to receive final regulatory approval before any appointment could be made, a process which is expected to happen within the next couple of months.

At that point, with Endemol’s crippling financial travails resolved and significant amounts of debt written off, the company potentially becomes a far more attractive acquisition target and a fascinating dynamic develops between Cyrte and Apollo, as to whether they work together as partners or compete with one another for majority control.

Apollo last year bought out CKX, the owner of American Idol producer 19 Entertainment, for US$509m, while Cyrte’s links back to de Mol mean rumours that he will try to regain the company he co-founded 12 years ago continue to percolate. De Mol’s current media group Talpa is enjoying global success with The Voice and now jointly owns the Benelux SBS broadcasting business together with Finland’s Sanoma.

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