Exec trio tries to buy U Music from Viv U

Fourtou sells group 7% equity in company

NEW YORK — Vivendi Universal turned down a recent offer to sell off Universal Music Group to three of its top executives, opting instead to offer them a minority stake in the company as an enticement to stay on board, the French daily Le Figaro reported.

According to the report, UMG chief exec Doug Morris, Interscope/Geffen/A&M boss Jimmy Iovine and Island/Def Jam topper Lyor Cohen put a leveraged-buyout deal on the table that valued the label giant at roughly $5 billion.

Vivendi U chief Jean-Rene Fourtou declined to sell, but distributed a total of 7% equity in the company to the trio for $350 million, in a move that would give management a more personal stake in any potential sale down the road.

Story is the latest in a long series of rumors surrounding Vivendi U’s attempts to sell its U.S. entertainment businesses, which include UMG, Universal Pictures and the French conglom’s TV operations.

A report last week contended that hardware maker Apple Computer was in talks to acquire the music division in a deal valued at as much as $6 billion, but insiders have said those discussions are still very far from producing an actual deal.

Vivendi Universal shares edged up 1.6% to end the day at $14.56.

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