France probes Bronfman’s share sale

Warner Music Group CEO in hot water

Warner Music Group CEO Edgar Bronfman has been placed under formal investigation by two French magistrates as part of a probe into alleged malpractices at media giant Vivendi, formerly known as Vivendi Universal.

He and six other current or former senior figures at Vivendi, including former CEO Jean-Marie Messier, are under formal investigation as apart of an inquiry into a massive share buyback after the 9/11 attacks in the U.S. in 2001; possible insider trading; inadequate financial disclosures; and the consolidation of partly owned telco units into Vivendi’s accounts.

In France, being placed under formal investigation is normally a prerequisite to bringing criminal charges. No charges have yet been filed against the six.

Vivendi Universal nearly collapsed in mid-2002 under the weight of debts run up by Messier in his efforts to build the company into a major international media corporation.

Bronfman, who resigned from the Vivendi board in December 2003, offered testimony in Paris regarding the investigations in June.

A French attorney for Bronfman, Thierry Marembert, said Thursday that Bronfman “will continue to cooperate with the proceedings.” Another lawyer for Bronfman, Georges Kiejman, said he was “surprised” by the ruling and would move to have it struck down.

In 2006 Vivendi Universal sold off 80% of its entertainment assets and changed its name to Vivendi. It retains its interests in Vivendi Games, Universal Music, Canal Plus and telcos.

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