Barry Diller said Tuesday he has no “agenda” with Vivendi, is a fan of the GE deal and will “monetize” his preferred shares in VUE by year-end.
Diller, speaking at the Goldman Sachs media conference in Gotham, said he would either settle with Vivendi for the “$2 billion-something” he’d be owed for the shares — or take a loan for the same amount from bank using the securities as collateral.
He said it didn’t matter to him either way. “We are relatively neutral.” He added that he’s not in talks with Vivendi right now.
Viv U chairman Jean-Rene Fourtou has said he will wait until a final deal with General Electric is announced to start negotiations with Diller.
Diller likes the GE transaction because a strong creditworthy company running VUE will give banks more confidence to lend against the shares.
GE is said to want Diller, chairman of InterActive Corp. out of the picture by the time the deal closes.
Observers noted that Diller’s preferred shares, while they represent the biggest financial chunk of his interest in Vivendi, aren’t all that needs to be unwound.
Diller and his company own more than a 5% equity stake in VUE and Diller has a seat on its board. The stake is said to be worth about $720 million, but Diller would certainly require a premium to be bought out. He’s also sued Viv U for $620 million in taxes he says it owes.
“It’s an expensive proposition” for Vivendi, said one Wall Streeter.