Thursday, March 20, 2003

Barry Diller resigns as co-CEO of Vivendi Universal



By Gary Gentile
The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES - Barry Diller resigned Wednesday as co-chief executive of Vivendi Universal Entertainment in a move that could help clear the way for the company's cash-strapped French parent to sell its Universal Studios, Universal's theme parks and other entertainment assets.

The decision is seen as clarifying Diller's priorities, which had been a matter of confusion as he served simultaneously as head of Vivendi Universal Entertainment and chairman of USA Interactive, which operates the Home Shopping Network, Ticketmaster, Match.com and Expedia, among other companies.

Diller, 61, owns a 1.5 percent stake in Vivendi Universal Entertainment. USA Interactive owns 5.4 percent of VUE, as well as preferred stock.

Vivendi Universal, which owns VUE, said Diller's resignation came with the company's "full agreement" and that co-CEO and company chairman Jean-Rene Fourtou would become full CEO.

Vivendi Universal is trying to reduce $13.5 billion debt from a multiyear buying spree that threatened to destroy the company.

Former oilman Marvin Davis has offered $20 billion for Vivendi's entertainment arm, plus Universal Music Group, a separate unit. Vivendi also is holding talks with Viacom, MGM and others.

Diller once served as head of Paramount and Twentieth Century Fox, where he helped launch the Fox Television network.



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