Italy’s top broadcaster RCS has decided not to bid for MFE, the TV empire controlled by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s family and which has long been speculated as being up for sale, amid reports it could sell its stake in order to become an online streaming powerhouse. Sources close to MFE said they remained united behind its vision.
MFE (previously MediaFourEurope), has an estimated market value of 1.75 billion euros ($1.9 billion). MFE operates media properties in Italy (Mediaset), Spain (Mediaset Espana), and Germany (Mediaset Deutschland).
Former Prime Minister’s flamboyance and propensity for catchy sound bites led to decades of scandals and corruption allegations, which eventually resulted in his conviction for tax fraud in 2013. After several acquittals, however, his conviction stood and he was banned from public office; nevertheless he continued as an influential business leader in commercial television production and established an industrial empire under his name.
Berlusconi launched his broadcasting career in the 1970s by founding Fininvest, later known as his commercial television empire. To build wealth through buying local stations and repackaging them as national networks for sale to advertisers. Carnevale Maffe described him as an incredible salesman; among the first Europeans to link advertising and editorial content and create programs tailored directly for advertisers rather than vice versa, as per her analysis.
Berlusconi’s personal life was often the subject of debate, as his lifestyle earned him the title “king of sex”. He was notorious for purchasing expensive cars, luxury apartments in Milan and houses on Lampedusa Island and Lake Maggiore as well as Cannes; additionally he owned private jets, yachts and villas both in France Riviera and Antigua.
Following Berlusconi’s death, it remains uncertain what will become of his stake in his family media group. While most reports indicate it will be divided equally among his five children, Italian media reports have speculated that Marta Fascina – whom Berlusconi described as his partner until he passed away and later called “wife”, may also receive part of it. Marina, his youngest daughter who excels at negotiations may take over his empire.
Mediaset Espana and Mediaset Federation Europe’s full merger is the family’s preferred option, creating a group with around 3.5 billion euros in revenues – on par with global players like Amazon and Netflix. Unfortunately, legal battles between Vivendi SA and two of Berlusconi’s eldest children active in businesses could scuttle any deal; given Vivendi holds 19.8% of MFE but would suffer losses upon selling its stake at current market prices due to differences between book value and market price of 19.8% holdings held.