Vivendi U cuts staff in Net revamp

Chief exec Nibley also out as layoffs are announced

NEW YORK — Vivendi Universal is trimming about 130 jobs, or 20% of total staff, from its Internet music properties as part of an ongoing restructuring that will put the company’s U.S.-based online assets under one roof at a new unit, Vivendi Universal Net USA.

Also departing the conglom is Andrew Nibley, chief exec of GetMusic — one of the Netcos that will fall under the umbrella of the new division.

The layoffs, to be announced to staffers later in the week, will focus on eliminating redundant positions at the constituent companies, which include GetMusic, MP3.com, EMusic.com and Rollingstone.com. Among the departments to be affected are finance & accounting, human resources, technology, marketing and sales.

Moves come just two weeks after Vivendi U announced the formation of the Los Angeles-based VU Net unit, which will also house the French conglom’s online gaming properties, including Flipside.com, Uproar.com, iWin.com and Virtual Vegas.

MP3.com prexy and chief exec Robin Richards, whose company settled a copyright infringement suit with Universal Music Group for more than $50 million just over a year ago, has been tapped to oversee the new subsidiary. Vivendi U bought MP3 in May for $372 million.

“It’s time for all these companies in aggregate to create a path to profitability that’s not way out there, that’s coming in the near future,” Richards said.

Fruits of buying spree

VU Net is the end product of a long Netco buying spree by Vivendi U, which took advantage of the collapse in the dot-com sector to acquire talent and technology, as well consolidate the nascent online music business under its own roof. The combined entity boasts roughly 36.5 million unique users per month.

Nibley signed on in 1999 to run GetMusic, then a 50-50 joint venture between Universal Music Group and rival major label BMG Entertainment. Netco was bought out by UMG last April and consolidated with one of its existing Web properties, unsigned-band portal Farmclub.com.

Before coming to GetMusic, exec worked at Reuters news service for nearly 20 years and oversaw the development of its new-media division.

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