Vivendi holds a 28.8% stake in the Berlusconi family led Mediaset, with two thirds of this held in a trust called Simon Fiduciaria. The French Vivendi was forced to shift the majority of its stock in a trust following a previous ruling from the Italian telecoms watchdog given its 24% stake in Telecom Italia and ‘excessive’ presence in the Italy’s media and telecoms sectors.
The relationship between the pair turned sour in 2016 after the French company withdrew from a deal to buy Mediaset’s pay TV unit. Since then, Vivendi has amassed a 29% stake in Mediaset in a move which has widely been considered as hostile.
These hostilities have mostly manifested in recent times with Vivendi repeatedly trying to block Mediaset’s attempts to merge its Spanish and Italian units into a Netherlands-based operation called MediaForEurope.
Vivendi has said that it opposes the move as it would only serve to tighten the grip of the Burlesconi family over Mediaset and has challenged it in courts across Europe.
The legal battle most recently swung in Mediaset’s favour, with a Milan court rejecting an appeal from Vivendi, though the reorganisation is still on hold as a result of a 2019 Spanish court ruling in favour of Vivendi.
In March Mediaset withdrew its filing of the project in the Netherlands in the face of the threat of fresh legal action by the French company, on the grounds that the merger plan filed by Mediaset on February 5 contained a new supplement that had not been presented to the shareholders of Mediaset or Mediaset España prior to their approval of the creation of the new MediaForEurope holding structure that will house both companies.
Mediaset also said at the time that it would initiate its own legal action against Vivendi for what it claimed were “continuous attempts to delay the [MediaForEurope] project”.