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Viv U mulls trims

Consultant urges corporate job reduction

PARIS — A French consulting firm, hired in February by then-CEO Jean-Marie Messier, has advised Vivendi Universal to chop 130 corporate jobs in New York — about half the staff — as debt-heavy conglom looks to cut costs.

Corporate efficiency expert the Constantin Group also recommended Vivendi Universal trim 100 jobs from the 370-person corporate staff in Paris.

Viv U has “been studying ways in which to develop the combined Paris and New York headquarters into much more efficient organizations,” a company rep said Monday.

Management will work closely with French unions to reassign Paris staff to positions in other divisions.

Viv U shares rose 9.07% to $16.96 as media stocks surged along with the broader market Monday.

Moving back to Paris

The New York offices already have shed 15 jobs, and further cuts are expected in the IT, human resources, office management, tax and legal departments. Investor relations and corporate communications could be squeezed as well, as Viv U tightens its belt and shifts its center of gravity back toward Paris. Messier, who was ousted in June, had moved a large part of the company to Gotham to bask in the media spotlight and woo U.S. investors.

New Viv U prexy Jean-Rene Fourtou recently unveiled plans to spin off part of Canal Plus into a separately traded entity and to sell off the rest of the conglom’s unprofitable international paybox operation and other sundry assets.

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. said last week it was interested in acquiring Canal Plus Technology, creator of Canal’s set-top decoder boxes. News Corp. owns 80% of Canal Plus Technology rival NDS. Canal Plus Technology recently sued NDS for allegedly pirating its decoder cards. A merger would put an end to the litigation.

Another Viv U asset expected to be sold is publisher Houghton Mifflin, which Messier bought a year ago for $1.7 billion. Publishing topper and ex-Messier lieutenant Agnes Touraine is lobbying hard to keep the Boston-based publisher under the Viv U umbrella.

(Jill Goldsmith in New York contributed to this report.)

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