- Shares on conditions made by MFE when the founder dies
- Business can be transferred to daughter Marina.
- Key to future business setup
- Vivendi’s future role in focus
MILAN, June 12 (Reuters) – News of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s death on Monday sent shares in his family’s MFE-MediaForEurope ( MFEB.MI ) stock up, a market reaction consistent with his worsening health conditions in recent months. .
Not a sign of disrespect to the billionaire, who made his fortune in commercial television before entering politics, but the stock’s rise reflects the options that could open up when the company’s founder steps down.
MFE, 48% owned by the Berlusconi family’s Fininvest, operates commercial television channels in Italy and Spain, and has a large stake in Germany’s ProSieben ( PSMGn.DE ).
Led by former prime minister Pier Silvio Berlusconi’s son, it has sought to hold its own against the US streaming giants, which have followed a European expansion from its Italian roots that are taking in growing numbers of viewers.
In a rapidly changing media landscape, some investors speculate that heirs may be more open to seeking an MFE partner or selling to a larger rival.
French media group Vivendi ( VIV.PA ), MFE’s second-largest shareholder, is widely seen in the industry as a leading candidate. But the two companies A standstill agreement reached in 2021 to resolve the years-long legal battle prevents Vivendi from increasing its stake to 23 percent until 2026.
B-shares in the MFE rose as much as 10.3% on Monday and were up 3.7% by 1330 GMT, giving them a market capitalization of 1.6 billion euros.
“When the ownership of a company is in question, investors buy first and then see what happens,” says Carlo Alberto Carnevale Maffe, professor of strategy at SDA Bocconi Management School in Milan.
The 86-year-old billionaire has not named an heir, but people familiar with the matter told Reuters that her eldest daughter, Marina, who chairs Fininvest, is most likely to take over.
Marina, 56, has chaired Fininvest’s board since 2005. In addition to MFE, the family holding company controls publishing house Mondori ( MOED.MI ) and has a large stake in asset manager Mediolanum ( BMED.MI ).
Shares in Mondadori rose 1.4 percent.
“Berlusconi may not have made succession plans for his party, but he certainly did for his businesses,” Carnevale Maffe said.
Prior to 2005, Marina served as Vice-Chairman at Finin Vest for nine years.
Fininvest said in a note on Monday that there would be no change to the way its businesses are run.
Described by those who work with her as a strong and demanding boss, Marina was ushered into corporate life by her father in her early 20s, and her influence grew when he was forced into a hands-off role after he entered politics in 1994.
Fedele Confalonieri, her father’s longtime friend and chairman of MediaForEurope, once likened her grueling business career to “practicing pneumonia.”
Marina, a mother of two, is married to a former La Scala ballet dancer.
Over the past ten years, she has seen her leadership at Fininvest grow significantly as her father’s health fades.
In a 2018 television interview, Berlusconi said that Marina was a close daughter to him and that he consulted with her every day before making any decision, which he did with his mother before her death.
Vittorio Giovanelli, the former director of Berlusconi’s Rete 4 TV channel, said in a 2003 book, “Silvio Put Her to Work When She Was More Than a Child,” that he began bringing Marina to business meetings in 1985.
“She listened and took notes for hours, never stopping.”
Berlusconi has a total of five children from his two ex-wives. Unlike the other three heirs, Marina and Pierre Silvio, born from the first marriage, both have an executive role in the family business.
He was not legally married to his partner Marta Fascina, although he called her his wife on his deathbed.
Under Italian law, the children are entitled to inherit two-thirds of the wealth equally, while the deceased can dispose of the remaining one-third as he wishes.
The manner in which Berlusconi decided to divide his assets among his heirs will be known only after the will is opened.
A third of the freely allocable assets can be used to choose a leader for Finvest companies, while other assets are sufficient to offset the rest, said law professor Emmanuel Lucini Guastalla.
Written by Keith Weir and Valentina Za
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