Rome

Italian president says not his place to comment on RCS

Replies to Della Valle's appeal to protect freedom of press

Italian president says not his place to comment on RCS

Rome, July 9 - Italian President Giorgio Napolitano wrote that it was not his place to comment on ownership stakes at the troubled publisher RCS Mediagroup in a letter released on Tuesday. "It is my daily commitment to call all the representative forces of this country to maximize foresight and cohesion in this delicate phase of the nation's life," said Napolitano's statement. "Naturally it is not for me to comment on issues and proposals referring to the self-determination of economic and entrepreneurial entities and market judgement". Napolitano's letter was a response to an appeal by shoe magnate Diego Della Valle concerning stakeholder changes at RCS Mediagroup, which owns Italy's largest newspaper of record, Il Corriere della Sera, among other media assets. Della Valle - who owns a controlling stake in the shoe and luxury goods maker Tod's - is a minority shareholder in RCS Mediagroup. The entrepreneur has remained outside of a 58% majority-shareholder pact and has objected to the way the publisher's board pursued a 400-million-euro capital increase to save it from bankruptcy. During the underwriting process reserved for shareholders, Fiat swooped on RCS options that could raise the automaker's stake from 10% to 20% to become the publisher's largest single shareholder. Della Valle wrote to the Italian president saying, "Freedom of opinion is endangered at an important part of the Italian press". "I, and I believe many Italians, need to know your thoughts (on RCS Mediagroup issues)," Della Valle added in the letter released to the press on Monday. The RCS Mediagroup capital increase was 85% underwritten by existing shareholders, and the remainder of the rights issue will be sold on the Milan bourse over five days beginning Wednesday. Leading stakeholders in RCS Mediagroup include Pirelli, the merchant bank Mediobanca and the Benetton family, in addition to Fiat and Della Valle.

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