Inside Move: Bronfman takes break from Viv U board

Exec waiting for definitive agreement with NBC

A jilted Edgar Bronfman Jr. will not rejoin the Vivendi board as the French conglom works to finalize the sale of Vivendi Universal Entertainment to General Electric.

“I’ve decided, in consultation with (Vivendi CEO) Jean-Rene Fourtou, not to go back on the board until the definitive agreements are signed with NBC,” Bronfman told CNBC. “I just don’t think it’s appropriate for me to be in the boardroom commenting on the deal that they’re attempting to do with GE and that the board has already, in a sense, agreed to.”

When the deal closes — and Bronfman thinks it will — Vivendi can appoint three directors of its choosing to the board of the merged company, NBC Universal. “That discussion hasn’t taken place yet,” he said Monday.

Bronfman took it hard last week when Vivendi inked a letter of intent to hand Universal over to GE for cash, stock and a 20% stake in a new company formed by merging U and NBC. Bronfman’s bid included more cash and, “dollar for dollar,” was probably stronger than GE’s, he said. He thinks his pursuit of U was a boon to Vivendi shareholders, himself included, since it “forced GE to put a stronger offer on the table.”

Clearly, in hindsight, Bronfman regrets the decision three years ago to sell Seagram to Vivendi. At the time, Seagram portrayed the deal as a strategic imperative after other mega-mergers. But Bronfman acknowledged that years of tension in his wealthy family caused by Seagram’s foray into showbiz contributed to the disastrous pact. “Part of the reason we actually made this sale to Vivendi in 2000 was that the two families that controlled Seagram, my father’s family and my uncle’s family, really wanted to go their own separate ways and have their own investment decisions made independently of each other. And the only real way to effect that was to sell the company.”

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