The settlement, announced Friday by Liberty Media and Vivendi, resolves the legal action surrounding Vivendi’s 2001 acquisition of Liberty Media’s stake in USA Networks. In 2013, a U.S. federal jury awarded Liberty Media about $1 billion in damages, siding with Liberty Media’s claims that Vivendi concealed the state of its finances and artificially inflated the value of its shares. The deal gave Liberty Media a 3% stake in Vivendi Universal.
Liberty Media said Friday it expects to net after-tax proceeds of $420 million in cash from the settlement, after payments to its legal counsel and Liberty Global, a former subsidiary that was a plaintiff in the action.
In a statement released Friday, Vivendi said that the settlement “should not be construed as a concession by Vivendi of the validity of any of Liberty Media’s claims, or as an admission of any wrongdoing by Vivendi.” Vivendi continues to maintain that it did not commit any wrongdoing in the deal but said it decided to “resolve this long-running dispute with Liberty Media on terms that Vivendi believes are in the interest of both the company and its shareholders.”
In October 2003, GE (then owner of NBC) and Vivendi Universal announced a pact to merge NBC and Vivendi Universal Entertainment, forming NBCUniversal.
In announcing its fourth-quarter earnings on Friday, Liberty also said it was moving forward on the plan to split itself into three tracking stocks: Liberty Braves Group, Liberty SiriusXM Group and Liberty Media. The goal is to boost the market value of discreet assets, including the Atlanta Braves baseball team and the satellite radio giant, will be housed under the tracking stocks and eliminate what Liberty CEO Greg Maffei sees as the discount applied by investors by having them all valued as one Liberty Media issue.
A shareholder vote on the tracking stock restructuring is set for April 11.
During a conference call with analysts, Maffei spoke of his confidence that Charter Communications, which is awaiting federal approval of its merger with Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, will see its shares rise well above the $176.95 price set for Liberty Broadband’s $4.3 billion purchase of Charter stock, to help finance the $67.1 billion cable merger.
Maffei also reiterated Liberty’s long-term hope to become the sole owner of SiriusXM Satellite Radio, which is one of the holding company’s biggest positions at present with ownership of a little more than 62%.
“We’ve expressed with our actions and our words that we would love to be an owner of 100 percent of SiriusXM,” Maffei said. “There’s a limit to what we’re willing to pay for that. Eventually we’re likely to be the 100% owner at some reasonable price.”
For the full year 2015, Liberty Media’s revenue came in at $4.5 billion, down from $4.8 billion in 2014, while net income was $395 million, up from $248 million in 2014.
Cynthia Littleton contributed to this report.