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Agnelli family to take over Italian newspaper group GEDI

GEDI group publishes leading Italian dailies La Stampa and La Repubblica and also owns 13 local publications and radio stations
GEDI group publishes leading Italian dailies La Stampa and La Repubblica and also owns 13 local publications and radio stations AFP/File

Milan (AFP)

The Elkann-Agnelli family, which owns Britain's The Economist, will become the main shareholder of the publisher GEDI, a group that includes leading Italian dailies La Stampa and La Repubblica, in a deal announced late Monday.

The family's holding firm Exor will buy the 43.78 percent of Gedi held by the De Benedetti family for 102.4 million euros ($113.4 million) and will then launch a takeover offer for the rest of the company via a new firm, they said in a joint statement.

"With this transaction we're committing to a rigorous entrepreneurial project in support of GEDI as it addresses its future challenges," said Exor chief executive John Elkann, a scion of the Agnelli family which made a fortune in the automobile industry with Fiat Chrysler and Ferrari.

"Exor will ensure the stability needed to accelerate the necessary technological and structural transformation," he said in the statement.

"We're convinced that quality journalism has a bright future so long as it can combine authoritativeness, professionalism and independence with the requirements of its readers, today and in the future."

Since 2015, Exor has held a 43.4 percent stake in Britain's The Economist group.

The De Benedetti family holding firm Cir intends to take a five percent stake in the new entity "to support the publishing company's development in the coming years".

In addition to La Stampa and La Repubblica, GEDI owns 13 local publications and radio stations such as Radio DeeJay.

Apart from the media, Exor holds 28.98 percent of Fiat Chrysler, a 22.91 percent stake in Ferrari, 26.89 percent of CNH Industrial and 63.77 percent of Italian Serie A club Juventus FC.

John Elkann, grandson of Gianni Agnelli, recently piloted the merger between Fiat Chrysler and PSA (Peugeot Citroen), which is expected to be finalised in the coming weeks.

The Benedetti family, which has been torn apart over GEDI in recent months, has finally decided to withdraw from the publishing group which it controlled for nearly 30 years.

A few weeks ago, Carlo De Benedetti, 85, offered to buy 29.9 percent of the group in a battle with his sons to whom he had handed control to 2012, claiming they did not have the skills or passion required to be publishers.

The publishing group is in trouble. In 2017 it recorded its first net loss of 116.6 million euros, followed in 2018 by a loss of 32.2 million.

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