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Bronfman Denies Rumors, Tells Execs Seagram Is Not on the Block

March 02, 2000|JAMES BATES

Seagram Chief Executive Edgar Bronfman Jr. told executives at his Universal Studios unit Wednesday that Seagram is not on the block, despite widespread rumors and reports that he held talks as recently as last week to sell the company, sources at the meeting said.

Speaking at an executive retreat at the La Quinta Resort and Club near Palm Springs, Bronfman began a question-and-answer session by telling the group he would answer the first question before it was asked. He then said, "The company is not for sale."

Asked why reports keep surfacing that it may be, Bronfman listed two reasons: The spinoff of its TV assets to Barry Diller's USA Networks has prompted speculation he will do another major deal with Diller involving the entire firm. And the Time Warner/America Online merger deal caught everyone off guard, prompting a frenzy of speculation about other deals.

Bronfman is known to have discussed a variety of scenarios involving combinations, but nothing concrete has resulted. Potential interested parties could include Diller, media mogul Rupert Murdoch, AT&T, Viacom, and France's Canal Plus and its largest investor, utilities, communications and media conglomerate Vivendi.

On Wednesday, Newsweek magazine online reported that there have been fresh talks between Murdoch's News Corp. and Bronfman, but that no deal has emerged.

A source close to Murdoch has said the mogul would be interested if Bronfman were to decide to put the company up for sale, largely because of the appeal of its music assets. But sources caution that reaching a deal between the two companies would be difficult because of the price Bronfman would be expected to ask and the amount of stock Murdoch would have to exchange in an acquisition.

Neither company is commenting on the reports. Seagram shares rose $2 to close at $60.75 on the New York Stock Exchange.

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