Viv U online topper Richards logging off

Additional restructuring of 500-employee unit expected

The top exec at Vivendi Universal’s online unit, VU Net USA CEO Robin D. Richards, has resigned “to pursue other opportunities.”

Richards was also first president of MP3.com, the controversial music Web site Viv U bought last year. Soon after the acquisition, Richards was named to head VU Net USA, which brought together the company’s many online music, games and education sites.

“Robin built one of the highest-profile Internet companies in the world and skillfully and successfully navigated MP3.com through a difficult period prior to selling it to Vivendi Universal,” said Phillipe Germond, Viv U’s deputy chief operating officer. “We will miss his leadership and friendship and wish him only the best with his future.”

Germond said VU Net’s offices in New York, Los Angeles and San Diego will remain open, though he declined other comment. Additional restructuring of the 500-employee unit is expected.

Richards said he was proud of his VU Net team, which had reduced expenses $100 million during the integration process.

His departure had been widely expected following the exits of Viv U chief Jean-Marie Messier and chief financial officer Guillaume Hannezo. Some Viv U board members had wanted a Frenchman overseeing Internet ventures.

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