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Universal boss reassures staff after parent company chief resigns

By | Published on Monday 2 July 2012

Universal Music

Universal Music moved to reassure its staff on Friday that the surprise resignation of the CEO of its parent company Vivendi, caused by “strategic differences”, had nothing to do with the mega-major’s current efforts to buy its former rival.

As previously reported, Jean-Bernard Levy departed entertainment and communications group Vivendi last week after ten years with the French conglom, he having been one of the executives brought in to fix the company after its previous management took it to the brink at the turn of the century. An official statement said Levy was departing because of a “disagreement regarding strategic direction”, most likely with the company’s Chairman, Jean-René Fourtou.

It’s widely thought that issues around Vivendi’s struggling French telecoms company SFR are behind the strategic differences, with persistent if denied rumours that the group may be broken into two possibly also playing their part. However, Universal’s bid to buy the EMI record company, despite proving controversial in various quarters, is thought to have been fully backed by both Levy and Fourtou. And that despite the fact commitments made by Universal to Citigroup, to cover any losses the bank makes should the takeover ultimately be blocked by the US or European regulator, could be costly for Vivendi.

Nevertheless, according to the Financial Times, Universal boss Lucian Grainge still moved to reassure his staff on Friday that Levy’s departure did not mean there were concerns up in Vivendi HQ about his EMI deal. Fourtou was “committed to Universal Music’s strategic ambitions” and “fully supportive” of the proposed EMI purchase, Grainge said. Meanwhile a note from the Chairman himself reassured Universal staffers that Universal was “an integral part of Vivendi’s commitment to excellence in the field of creative content”.

Having recently presented Universal with its ‘statement of objections’ to the proposed EMI deal, the European Commission is now expected to begin hearings to discuss the various concerns raised so far on 10 Jul.

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