Show us the money.
That’s the message from Jean-Rene Fourtou as Round 2 of the entertainment deal of the decade begins in earnest.
Vivendi Universal’s bankers and advisers were scheduled to get down to business July 1, with the board meeting in Paris to reflect on its first platter of proposals as chief operating officer Jean-Bernard Levy decamps to the U.S. to talk turkey with a smaller group of second-round bidders.
The first round of non-binding bids yielded three private equity, leveraged buyout offers for the whole shootin’ match (music, theme parks, studio and cable nets): Marvin Davis/Brian Mulligan, with lead backer Texas Pacific; MGM (Providence Equity Partners); and Edgar Bronfman Jr. (Blackstone Group and Cablevision).
Viv U also netted one multifaceted cash-and-stock-swap offer from John Malone‘s Liberty Media (including options with and without the music group) and one amorphous yet intriguing proposal from NBC to jointly create a new entertainment conglom. Viacom hopes to get a Round 2 hearing for the cable nets only.
It’s too early to ascertain the true pricetags of these deals, but analysts estimate values in the $13 billion-$15 billion range for 80% of VUE.
NBC’s offer could be appealing if Viv U truly believes it’s out of the financial woods. The company has repeatedly said it will not do a bad deal, and just how comfortable Viv is feeling about its fiscal health — it got a credit upgrade by Moody’s on June 25 — could dictate whether it can afford to ponder the potential of NBC’s joint-venture offer.
Liberty is considered in the best position to satisfy the French company’s stated preference for cash while resolving some of the messy tax and ownership issues that ensnare Viv U and Barry Diller‘s Interactive Corp. in an uncomfortable marriage.
MGM, the only studio in the first round, has one crucial advantage: It is making a cash offer and its vast library would be an ideal mesh with Universal’s. Plus, U would bring the Lion an ongoing TV production biz as well as domestic cable channels.