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While he was likely an unsuccessful bidder, Bronfman's emergence in the contest for Columbia House is the first sign of what the executive could be looking to do after his departure from Vivendi.

AOL, SONY IN TALKS TO SELL COLUMBIA HOUSE AGAIN

Music Companies Look at Possible Sale to Blackstone for $500 Million
AOL Time Warner and Sony are in advanced discussions with Blackstone Group to sell a majority stake in Columbia House, their jointly owned music and video direct-marketing firm, for between $400 million and $500 million, the Wall Street Journal reports.

If Blackstone, a buyout and investment-banking firm, finalizes the deal, it will have beaten out two other groups. One group included Goldman Sachs and Edgar Bronfman Jr., who is shortly to leave his executive post at Vivendi Universal. The other group was Rhode Island private-equity firm Providence Equity Partners, sources said. Discussions with Blackstone are at a fragile stage, however, and could still collapse.

Once the dominant music club, Columbia House's music business has been declining for the past few years under pressure from Internet retailing, the end of the compact-disc boom and stronger performance from its main rival, BMG Direct, owned by Bertelsmann, the paper said. Still, the explosion in sales of digital video discs has helped turn around Columbia House's business performance in the past couple of years. About half of the company's annual $1.1 billion in revenue now comes from video and DVD sales, one person close to the situation estimated. The person added that Columbia has about 14 million members.

While he was likely an unsuccessful bidder, Bronfman's emergence in the contest for Columbia is the first sign of what the executive could be looking to do after his departure from Vivendi. He had said when he announced his resignation in December that he wanted to head his own company. Bronfman, along with his former company Seagram, had longstanding ties with Goldman. Through a spokeswoman, Bronfman confirmed he had been approached to make a bid for Columbia House but declined to comment further.

A person close to the situation told the Journal Blackstone had reached a preliminary agreement to acquire Columbia but details were still being negotiated. Blackstone's deal values all of Columbia at more than $500 million, although Blackstone will pay between $400 million and $500 million because Sony and AOL want to retain a minority stake. Blackstone is paying in cash and securities.

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