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VIVENDI UNIVERSAL AUCTION ACTION
Board Meets Today As Liberty Media Drops Out
John Malone’s Liberty Media has dropped out of the Vivendi Universal, just before the planned VU board meeting today to discuss offers for the company’s entertainment assets. The Colorado-based Liberty withdrew, it said, because Vivendi’s $14 billion price tag was too much.

That leaves General Electric’s NBC and the group headed up by Edgar Bronfman Jr. as the leaders of the pack. The Wall Street Journal, which we read for the comics, said today that Vivendi’s board may decide to delay a decision on picking one bidder for further discussions. Should the board make that decision, other reports say, both Bronfman’s contingent and NBC might be angered. And you won’t like them when they’re angry.

NBC, as you no doubt remember from your careful study of this transaction, wants to merge its assets with Vivendi’s, but hasn’t offered any cash. Vivendi has been trying to sell assets to pay down its debt, now estimated at $13 billion. Reports have suggested that NBC is the leading contender, though the Bronfman group recently sweetened its offer to include a few hundred million dollars in cash. Cold, hard cash is something that doesn’t need a translator. An accountant, maybe, but not a translator.

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