Italian Companies Create $100M Net Fund

ROME (01/27/2000) - A group of Italian companies led by former prime minister and media magnate Silvio Berlusconi's Fininvest SpA is to set up an Internet venture capital fund with more than US$100 million to invest, mainly in information technology projects in the U.S., Fininvest announced today.

The EuroMedia Venture Fund will be based in New York and Silicon Valley in California, and will begin operations by the end of February, investing primarily in private Internet, new media and e-commerce companies, Fininvest said in a statement. The fund will be run by Alessandro Piol, the founder of AT&T Corp.'s venture capital fund in the U.S., the statement said. He will be assisted by the private equity team from Invesco, an investment company quoted on the New York, London and Paris stock exchanges which currently manages a portfolio worth around $300 billion, it said.

Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian opposition leader and media magnate, has won the support of his longstanding German partner, the media magnate Leo Kirch, as well as that of Ciao Holding, an Internet joint venture controlled by the Fiat industrial group. 21 Investimenti, a merchant bank controlled by the Benetton clothing group and three Italian banks -- Banca Nazionale del Lavoro, Monte dei Paschi di Siena and Banca di Roma -- are also backing the fund, the Fininvest statement said.

Fininvest, which launched a free Internet service, Jumpy, last November, will be investing around $30 million in the fund, a Fininvest spokeswoman said. The group's broadcasting arm, Mediaset SpA, and its publishing company, Mondadori SpA, will also be participating in the project.

Fininvest can be contacted in Milan, Italy, at +39-02-85411.

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