Cecchi Gori suit: $1 bil-plus

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ROME -- Beleaguered Italian producer Vittorio Cecchi Gori has filed a lawsuit of historic proportions in a Rome court, asking for more than $1 billion from Italy's Communications Authority, alleging that the regulator's unwarranted decisions has caused him untold financial damage.

The headline-grabbing suit filed Friday is based predominantly on decisions handed down in relation to Telemontecarlo and MTV-Italia, TV networks Cecchi Gori controlled until 2001. Telemontecarlo has been transformed into La 7, the main holding of Telecom Italia Media and the only national network not owned by Silvio Berlusconi's Mediaset or state broadcaster RAI.

Cecchi Gori's office confirmed news of the lawsuit, in which he is asking for $1.38 billion in damages.

Legal experts said Cecchi Gori would set a legal precedent if he were awarded significant damages because regulators in Italy rarely are held accountable for the financial repercussions of their decisions.

Additionally, the fact that the case is nearly seven years old and that there is so far limited indication that the authority's decisions regulating the sales of the television holdings were unfair likely would work against Cecchi Gori's legal team.

Still, the dramatic move could represent the largest-ever cash award based on a case that pits one individual against an Italian government agency.

After a long period of relative quiet, Cecchi Gori has been in the news lately. His production company, Finmavi, declared bankruptcy in 2006, and since then Cecchi Gori has been bogged down in various court cases.

But in January, the producer emerged to co-produce the hit film "Excuse Me If I Call You My Love."

Two more films are on the way, Cecchi Gori said in a recent interview, including one based on a book written by the same author who penned the story behind the Cecchi Gori-produced Oscar winner "The Postman."

Also in January, Cecchi Gori formed a production company called New Capital, which started with $15 million in capital. Last week, he announced plans for an April auction of rights to about 700 films he produced or owned Italian distribution rights to in a process that could raise more than $60 million.
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