Ben Ammar takes stake in Eagle Pics

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TURIN, Italy -- Franco-Tunisian powerbroker Tarak Ben Ammar has acquired a controlling stake in Italian film distributor Eagle Pictures, a statement from the Italian Stock Exchange reported Friday, in a long-rumored deal that is a key part of Ben Ammar's efforts to establish a pan-European distribution network.

The two sides had reportedly been in talks since July, and the deal has been seen as imminent for weeks.

The terms of the deal were not released, though the statement from the stock exchange said it involved a 75% stake in Eagle Pictures going to Prime TV, an Italian media company Ben Ammar owns.

The Italian media reported previously that the deal was worth around 75 million euros ($110 million).

Eagle was responsible for about a 6% share of the Italian market over the first nine months of 2007, with most of its films coming from Hollywood, including a steady stream from Lionsgate and New Line. The company has not been shy about bidding against Italian powerhouses such as Silvio Berlusconi's Medusa and RAI Cinema.

Ben Ammar has had a long relationship with both Berlusconi and Rupert Murdoch, both of whom will now become rivals in Italy. It is not clear how Ben Ammar's acquisition of Eagle would affect those relationships.

The deal is Ben Ammar's second in Italy this month. Earlier in November, he acquired a 2% stake in animated content producer Rainbow, the company behind the hit children's program "Winx Club," which is distributed in nearly 100 markets.

The deal came as Rainbow was planning to list on the Italian Stock Exchange.
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