Vivendi ends era with NBC Uni sale

French company partnered with GE to form NBC Uni in 2004

NEW YORK -- Vivendi is selling its 20% stake in NBC Universal in a move that will allow it to fully control all its businesses for the first time.

The sale of its NBC Uni minority stake in what are likely to be two stages was announced Thursday morning and was necessary for Comcast to finalize its deal for a 51% stake in an expanded NBC Uni.

Vivendi had partnered with General Electric to form NBC Uni in 2004 after in late 2000 pushing into the entertainment space via a merger with The Seagram Co. and Canal Plus, which then-CEO Jean-Marie Messier wanted to use to make the former water conglomerate sexier.

Despite its planned divestiture of its NBC Uni stake, Vivendi will continue to have a hand in the media and entertainment business via its ownership of Universal Music Group, French pay TV firm Canal Plus, of which it is looking to buy full control as well, and Activision Blizzard, which is publicly traded.

"We are now opening a new chapter in the group's history," said Jean-Bernard Levy, chairman of the Vivendi management board. "Once this agreement is completed, Vivendi will have exclusive control of all its assets. More coherent, and more focused on rapidly growing countries, with a stronger presence in communications and entertainment businesses that it has managed for many years, Vivendi is determined, at the start of the new decade, to pursue its profitable growth strategy."

GE will pay Vivendi $2 billion in September 2010 for more than a third of its NBC Uni stake if the Comcast-NBC Uni deal isn't done by then, with the rest to bring Vivendi $3.8 billion at the time of the Comcast deal's close.

If the Comcast transaction fails, Vivendi said it would launch an accelerated initial public offering of its remaining 12.34% stake in NBC Uni.

The company will also continue to receive quarterly dividends from NBC Uni until the close, with GE guaranteeing added payments if the 2010 dividends to Vivendi come in below $268 million.