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"Now that Vivendi Universal has begun a formal process in reviewing options for its entertainment assets, it is appropriate to step aside from any direct management responsibility."
——Barry Diller, on stepping down from VUE
DILLER SAYS AU REVOIR TO VUE
Media Mogul to Step Down After Fourtou Entertains Marvin Davis Bid, USA Interactive Buys Out Expedia for $3.3 Billion
Guess Jean-Rene Fourtou won’t have Barry Diller to kick around anymore…at least not at Vivendi Universal Entertainment.

The Wall Street Journal reported today that Diller will step down as chief executive of VUE to concentrate on his role as head of USA Interactive. Take that, you cheese-eating, wine-sipping turncoats!

Diller’s exit is proof his play to take over the company failed, and clears the way for Fourtou to sell off his entertainment assets by perhaps accepting the $20 billion offer from the exec's arch-rival Marvin Davis. Diller had repeatedly expressed a reluctance to include the music group as part of his VUE domain, but Davis has indicated no such preference. Fortou will now take over the post, which he shared with Diller.

Vivendi stated: "Barry Diller, in full agreement with Vivendi Universal, announced today that he is ending his temporary assignment as CEO of Vivendi Universal Entertainment." Fourtou went on to thank Diller for his "efficient, friendly support over the past few months, which have been a very difficult period for Vivendi Universal."

Diller and VU have been attempting to get out of the December 2001 agreement which joined Diller’s TV and film assets with Universal Studios to form VUE.

Fourtou has been seeking buyers for its entertainment assets, including UMG, the film studio, the theme parks and the USA and Sci-Fi cable networks, as well as examining the possibility of raising money with an IPO of those properties. The French leader of the company had reportedly angered Diller when he considered Davis' reported $20 billion bid for VUE, plus the Music Group. That’s only $5 billion less than the $25 billion loss Vivendi Universal took for last year, which is a lotta euros, folks.

Diller and Davis have been at odds for 25 years, when Davis backed out of a deal to purchase a group of seven stations Diller was helping run in the 1980s for John Kluge's Metromedia Group.

"My executive role was never intended to be permanent," Diller told WSJ today. "Now that Vivendi Universal has begun a formal process in reviewing options for its entertainment assets, it is appropriate to step aside from any direct management responsibility."

In other news, Diller’s USA Interactive has agreed to purchase the shares of travel seller Expedia Inc. it didn’t already own for $3.3 billion in stock.

The Expedia deal allows USA Interactive to simplify its corporate structure, which includes Ticketmaster, Match.com, Home Shopping Network and other properties.

Diller had recently been receiving pressure from USA Interactive shareholders to pay more attention to his online holdings. He'd held the chief executive role at the entertainment unit with Fourtou since last November.

Vivendi Universal is up 36 cents in today’s trading, to $15.16, while USA Interactive shares are down $2.18 to $24.31.

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