Vivendi and Mediaset are suing each other for defamation, in an escalating fight between the French and Italian media groups over a collapsed deal for Mediaset Premium.

The French group owned by billionaire Vincent Bollore filed a defamation lawsuit in Milan on Tuesday against the Italian group owned by Silvio Berlusconi regarding their dispute over the sale of Mediaset’s pay TV unit, said a person informed of the decision.

Mediaset countered with the filing of a defamation suit against Vivendi in the same court, said a person familiar with the matter. This followed comments by the chief executive of Vivendi in the FT this week who accused Mediaset of providing “misleading” information during negotiations over the tie up last year.

Tensions between Vivendi chairman Mr Bolloré and Mr Berlusconi, who founded and owns 40 per cent of Mediaset, have been rising ever since Vivendi’s €880m deal to acquire 3.5 per cent of the Italian group and all of pay-TV channel Mediaset Premium fell apart in July.

The move — a feature of a wider agreement in which Mediaset would take 3.5 per cent of Vivendi — was part of the French group’s strategy to build a southern European media powerhouse to take on Sky and combat the growing threat from new global online streaming services such as Netflix.

Despite reports in Italy of a possible peace deal between the two parties, Arnaud de Puyfontaine, Vivendi’s chief executive, told the Financial Times this week that attempts to find a resolution had so far failed. He suggested that Vivendi received “wrong” information during talks about the deal.

Mediaset responded to Mr De Puyfontaine’s comments by saying the French company had signed the deal after one month of due diligence.

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