Warner Bros. Italia Acquires Berlusconi's Medusa Home Video

Silvio Berlusconi - Political Plans and Legal Charges
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Italian media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi has often been seen as the teflon media mogul - always facing legal and other charges, but never really facing consequences. In Oct. 2012 though, a court sentenced the head of media group Mediaset, whose stock has been dropping amid weak ad trends, to four years in prison in a tax evasion case - marking the first time he is facing time behind bars. And just before Christmas, prosecutors also called for a prison sentence of at least one year for Berlusconi on charges of publishing information about a political rival that was obtained illegally. The three-time prime minister, meanwhile, announced he would run for a fourth term in early 2013 after having left political office in late 2011.

Mediaset, Medusa's parent company, is reported to be shopping around several subsidiaries.

ROME – A division of Warner Bros. Italia announced that it had acquired Medusa Home Video, the home video division of Silvio Berlusconi’s production and distribution company Medusa Film, the first in what could become a series of asset sales by Medusa’s parent company.

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The deal, brokered between Barbara Salabè, head of Warner Bros Entertainment Italy and Medusa Film chief executive Giampaolo Letta, include the rights to around 3,000 titles in the Medusa Home Video portfolio, including Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, The Departed from Martin Scorcese, and the Lord of the Rings franchise -- the last just in time for Warner Bros. Italia’s release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, on Dec. 13.

Terms of the deal were not released.

Salabè praised the deal, saying in a statement that, “joining this successful business with ours helps further our interests in the Italian home video market, adding some highly complementary titles to our already string portfolio of content.”

The 17-year-old Medusa Home Video had been a pioneer in DVD and Blu-Ray production and distribution in Italy.

Mediaset, Medusa’s parent company, along with partner Benetton, is also reported to be looking to sell The Space Cinema exhibitor chain and Mediaset Premium, the company’s for-pay satellite television service. The company is suffering from rising borrowing costs, falling television ad revenue, and a battered share price.

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Berlusconi, Mediaset’s founder and a three-time Italian prime minister, has suffered from personal scandals and legal woes that have intensified since he stepped down as prime minister nearly a year ago. In October, he was sentenced to four years behind bars for tax evasion. That verdict is currently under appeal.