Music’s money man

UMG topper grabs $18 mil payday

Universal Music chairman-CEO Doug Morris earned E14.5 million (about $18 million) for 2005 — more than five times the E2.5 million that went to his boss, Vivendi topper Jean-Bernard Levy.

Separately, Levy indicated he wouldn’t split up the company despite pressure from a new shareholder. The stock market, he noted, hasn’t rewarded companies that have tried breakups, such as Viacom and Liberty Media.

And, moving back to its French roots, Vivendi formally knocked “Universal” from its name and unveiled a logo for “a renewed, high-performance company.”

Morris’ package was detailed in the French conglom’s annual report, which came out ahead of its annual shareholder meeting Thursday in Paris.

Morris sits on Vivendi’s board. His pay was disclosed, even as U.S. media companies are busy battling the SEC over a proposed regulation that might force them to reveal compensation for their highest-paid division heads.

Morris was rewarded for his unit’s strong perf last year as the music biz in general continued to struggle.

The world’s biggest music group boosted profits and market share last year with artists such as U2, Eminem, Mariah Carey, 50 Cent and Shania Twain.

Vivendi said Thursday that UMG was also a standout in the first quarter, with revenue up 8.4% to $1.4 billion. Top sellers included Andrea Bocelli, Jack Johnson, Prince and Ne-Yo. Digital sales surged 146% to $137 million, or 10% of UMG’s total.

Conglom’s total revenue grew 5.7% to about $5.9 billion.

Vivendi puts out preliminary, unaudited revenue figures weeks before its official financial results.

A lively Vivendi Universal Games saw revenue jump 18.6% to $165 million. Viv cited vidgames “World of Warcraft” and “Ice Age 2.”

Canal Plus sales nosed up 2% to $1.11 billion.

In telco, mobile phone unit SFR saw a 3.4% revenue uptick to $2.64 billion. Maroc Telecom jumped 14% to $596 million.

Levy told stockholders he likes Viv’s asset mix and doesn’t want to split it up. A new investor, Sebastian Holdings, is said to be seeking a breakup of Vivendi’s media and telecom biz.

Sebastian, the vehicle of Norwegian financier Alexander Vik, has built up a 4% stake in Viv, according to French press reports.

Vivendi also said it’s about ready to yank its shares from the New York Stock Exchange after having received necessary approvals. It would still be listed on the Paris bourse.

Move would close the book on the reign of former topper Jean-Marie Messier, whose American dealmaking led him to famously announce that “France’s cultural exception is dead.”

Vivendi sold Universal to NBC parent General Electric two years ago.

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