Judge upholds $1 bil verdict vs. Vivendi

Conglom says it will appeal decision dating to Liberty dispute

A New York Judge has upheld a circa $1 billion jury verdict from last summer against Vivendi and added interest, a move the Paris conglom said Thursday that it plans to appeal.

U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin approved the judgment for losses incurred after Liberty sold Vivendi a stake in USA Networks in 2001 in exchange for 37 million shares that plummeted in value. Liberty accused Vivendi, led at the time by Jean-Marie Messier, of misleading it about the French conglom’s shaky financial position. Messier led Vivendi in a string of ambitious acquisitions, including Universal Studios, which it eventually sold to GE. The value of Liberty’s Vivendi shares plunged from nearly $3 billion at current exchange rates to about $800 million when it unloaded them in 2003.

“Vivendi strongly believes it did no wrong and intends to pursue its appeal to the fullest extent possible,” the company said in a statement.

A jury for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled last June that Liberty was entitled to €765 million (about $956 million). Scheindlin added interest, which could amount to several hundred million euros.