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Vivendi and Mediaset accuse each other of defamation as case comes to court

The Vivendi office is seen in Paris on Wednesday, May 17, 2006.Vivendi has opened a new front in its ongoing legal battle with Mediaset by accusing the Italian broadcaster of defamation. The latest move came as Mediaset’s legal suit against Vivendi came to court for the first time before a Milan court yesterday.

Vivendi has filed a claim for damages with interest against Mediaset, alleging that the latter’s media campaign against it was defamatory, according to press reports.

Mediaset has responded by filing its own complaint alleging defamation by Vivendi, citing recent statements by Vivendi CEO Arnaud de Puyfontaine. De Puyfontaine has alleged that Vivendi received misleading information from Mediaset about the position of pay TV unit Mediaset Premium ahead of signing the deal – later disavowed by Vivendi – that would have seen the French media giant take control of the pay TV outfit.

De Puyfontaine previously compared the abortive deal to being invited to a three-star restaurant and finding itself in McDonald’s, and also to receiving a description of a Ferrari and finding itself in possession of a Fiat Punto.

The judge hearing the case yesterday decided to join the separate suits filed by Mediaset and by its major shareholder Fininvest, which had separately sued for €570 million in damages and interest.

A separate investigation is being carried out by Italian authorities over Fininvest’s allegation that Vivendi executive manipulated the market, deliberately acting in a way that would cause Mediaset’s share price to drop in order to acquire the Italian group’s shares. Vivendi secured close to 30% of Mediaset in a series of movies at the end of last year.

Tags: Mediaset, Vivendi