NBC emerges as front runner in Vivendi US showbiz deal

MUMBAI: General Electric's NBC has emerged as a front runner in the acquisition of the entertainment assets of Vivendi Universal in the US. The other major contenders for the show business auction include from NBC, Liberty Media Corporation and an Edgar Bronfman promoted group.

However, a Reuters report adds that the sale decision will face a road block from the pending court decision (New York court) involving the severance package of its former chief executive Jean-Marie Messier.

Vivendi, a French media and utilities conglomerate, has been trying to sell assets to pay off debt. The entertainment assets being auctioned off include the Universal movie and TV studios, the Sci-Fi cable channel and the Universal theme parks. Media reports indicate that Vivendi has sought a $14 billion minimum.

Former CEO Messier was ousted in July 2002 after his attempts to turn the former French water utility into a global entertainment empire collapsed, leaving it with crippling debts. A Reuters report says that Messier has demanded a severance package of $22.7 million which is pending in a US court. Current Vivendi Universal chairman Jean-Rene Fourtou has opposed the package demanded by Messier. There is a demand to get this approved by the shareholders.

Vivendi is expected to make a decision on Tuesday, 26 August 2003. On the Paris Stock Exchange, the scrip rose by 1.39 per cent and is currently at Euro 15.31; on the New York Stock Exchange, it is at $16.78 - down 0.06 per cent.

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