Vincent Bolloré will he be prosecuted by Italian justice? The Italian financial brigade announced Saturday, December 12 that it had completed its preliminary investigation into possible “market manipulation”, during the rise of Vivendi in the capital of Mediaset. Italian police officers say in their press release that their findings pave the way for possible prosecution of the businessman and Arnaud de Puyfontaine, the chairman of the board of the French media giant.
The facts go back to 2016. In April, Mediaset and Vivendi, of which the Bolloré group is the largest shareholder, signed a strategic agreement, which should enable them to create a new European television giant. Vivendi undertakes to buy back 100% of the Mediaset Premium pay-TV channel package. The agreement is accompanied by an exchange of interests up to 3.5%. But in July, Vivendi denounces this alliance, arguing doubts about the future results of the television package. This triggers the anger of the family of the former head of government Silvio Berlusconi who controls Mediaset.
At the end of 2016, a dramatic turn of events, Vivendi took a stake in Mediaset, during a lightning raid described as“hostile” by the Berlusconi family, which then appealed to the Italian courts through its holding Fininvest. The Berlusconi family accuses Vivendi of “market manipulation”. It accuses Vivendi of having artificially dropped the Mediaset share, by announcing the termination of the strategic agreement to increase its capital at a lower cost.
In the process, the Milan public prosecutor’s office launched a preliminary investigation, dubbed “Operation Unfairplay”, entrusted to the Italian financial brigade. Ses investigations conclude that Vincent Bolloré and Arnaud de Puyfontaine are indeed liable to prosecution for “market manipulation” and “obstruction to the exercise of control functions”. The Milanese public prosecutor’s office can now decide whether or not to take up the case.
Vivendi denounces in a press release “allegations”. The group claims that “the prosecutor’s office hypothesizes that, in the second half of 2016, Vivendi would have communicated incorrect information to the market and would not have transmitted certain information to the Italian markets authority”. The company “reaffirms having acquired its stake in Mediaset in a legal manner and having always communicated transparently to the markets and regulators and that its directors (…) acted in full compliance with the law”.