Richards Butler in MTV Italian job

Richards Butler has advised its longstanding client MTV on a major deal that sees the music television company relaunch in Italy.

The firm was instructed by Svenja Geissmar, general counsel and senior vice-president of corporate business affairs, and Kathryn David, of the corporate business affairs department of MTV Networks Europe, to sell MTV’s Italian operations to Italian broadcaster Beta Television.

Beta is the owner and operator of Italy’s youth music channel and has purchased the operations in an all share deal that sees MTV take a 49 per cent stake in Beta. The new channel will be branded MTV Music Television and will air 24 hours a day.

Richards Butler has been providing legal services to MTV since 1995, and the relationship is enhanced by a secondment programme which has seen at least 10 trainees on secondment in MTV London. There are also two former Richards Butler lawyers now working for MTV.

Christopher Jackson, who led the Richards Butler team on the deal, believes that these connections secure and promote the relationship between firm and client.

He says: “Hopefully, MTV would instruct us anyway, as they did before, but having trainees on secondment there means we can increase our understanding of the business on a day-to-day basis. Also, having people there who once worked for Richards Butler means they know us very well.”

Michael Young and Charlotte Wheeldon assisted Jackson on the transaction, which was a cross-border venture in the context of high regulatory issues.

Young says: “In Italy, there are only terrestrial channels; therefore, there’s a limited number of frequencies and licences. It’s a closed market.”

Jackson adds: “In Italy, the broadcasting world is very regulated, so the work wasn’t straight legal work. The deal was also heavily negotiated and was more interesting than most.

“Italy’s a significant part of MTV Europe; therefore, to have a new investor will help MTV move forward there. We were delighted to be involved.”

Italian firm Carnelutti acted as co-counsel in Italy, with a team led by Alberto Rittatore and Luca Arnaboldi. Beta and Cecchi Gori Communications, Beta’s holding company, were advised by Bonelli Erede Pappalardo.