Vivendi Shaken By Record Fine
Shares of the French media company Vivendi slid nearly 4 percent in Paris today following a ruling by a New York jury on Friday that the company lied about its actual worth when it acquired Universal Pictures, Universal Music and other entertainment holdings from Seagram that left it owing tens of billions of dollars to creditors -- a crushing debt load that nearly forced it into bankruptcy. It eventually was able to retain ownership of Universal Music and sell off 80 percent of Universal Pictures to General Electric, which merged it with NBC. But its stock price plummeted. Reports over the weekend indicated that the shareholders who sued the company could receive a total of $9.3 billion, which some analysts regarded as a record for a class-action suit alleging securities misconduct. Former CEO Jean-Marie Messier, who headed Vivendi at the time, and former CFO, Guillaume Hannezo -- who were also sued by the shareholders -- were found not liable for the company's misdeeds. Vivendi lawyers said they would appeal.