Vivendi places $30 billion bid for Seagram

Company would be topped by Messier

French giant Vivendi and its subsidiary Canal Plus put down a $30 billion bid for Seagram on Tuesday and an announcement of the deal could come as early as next week.

The bid came in the form of a stock swap that valued Seagram at more than $70 per share.The company will likely be called Vivendi Universal and will be run by the French conglom’s topper Jean-Marie Messier. The Bronfman family will continue to have seats on the board, but its stake in the company will be reduced substantially.

Seagram chief executive Edgar Bronfman Jr. has been seeking a buyer all year and Vivendi has long been the frontrunner to acquire the company. Talks stalled in April over Seagrams’ terms. (Daily Variety, April 18).

The entertainment and spirits company enjoyed a brief reprieve from merger buzz, but rumors that Vivendi was back in the game began swirling again in earnest during last month’s Cannes Film Festival.

Acquisition by the French, if it goes through, would portend massive changes in the Universal pantheon. Bronfman’s management team at the studio has been in a holding pattern since the Universal TV deal with Barry Diller and Ron Meyer, Universal’s topper, has expressed to friends his discomfort with is job.

Vivendi, like other European powerhouses, is eager to build a steady flow of film product for its distribution pipelines. Nonetheless, the pattern in takeovers such as this is for the new company to install its fresh slate of production executives — executives who are more accustomed to dealing with the French corporate bureaucracy.

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