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Fiat Boosting RCS Stake Would Extend Agnelli Family Media Reach

Fiat SpA’s plan to boost its stake in RCS MediaGroup SpA would extend the media reach of Italy’s Agnelli family, making it the largest shareholder in the publisher of the nation’s biggest newspaper.

Led by Chairman John Elkann, a grandson of the late Giovanni Agnelli, Fiat said June 28 it will own 20.1 percent of Milan-based RCS following a capital increase by the company that publishes Corriere della Sera, assuming the sale in the coming week is fully subscribed.

Turin-based Fiat is able to boost its stake after buying options to purchase the new stock from other shareholders, it said in a June 28 statement. Fiat currently owns 10.5 percent of RCS, according to the website of market regulator Consob.

Elkann, 37, has taken increasing roles in the news business. He joined the board of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. earlier this month when the company was spun off from the billionaire’s media empire as a publishing arm. Elkann also sits on the board of the London-based Economist Newspaper Ltd., which publishes the Economist magazine.

Since 2005, Elkann has been on the board of RCS, and been chairman since 2008 of Fiat’s Editrice La Stampa SpA, publisher of the Turin-based La Stampa newspaper.

Fiat control of the Milan-based publisher could result in a breakup of RCS in a restructuring that might involve closer links between La Stampa and Corriere della Sera, according to reports in Italian newspapers including La Repubblica, which didn’t cite sources.

Under RCS’s plan to raise about 400 million euros ($520 million), shareholders can exercise their rights through July 5, the company said in a June 13 statement.

Elkann is also pursuing an expansion overseas of his family-controlled auto business. He’s said he aims to eventually combine Fiat with Chrysler Group LLC, the Auburn Hills, Michigan-based company in which Fiat owns a majority stake.

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