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Diller Tries to Pull the Fat Out of the Fire With Davis

Vivendi exec apologizes for 'ungracious' remark about the oil tycoon.

January 09, 2003|Richard Verrier | Times Staff Writer

Diller to Davis: I'm sorry.

Media mogul Barry Diller publicly apologized Wednesday for making disparaging remarks about billionaire Marvin Davis.

A day earlier, Diller made reference to the oil tycoon's girth at an investor conference in La Quinta, calling him "that fat Marvin Davis," and dismissed Davis' prospects for acquiring Vivendi Universal's U.S. entertainment businesses.

Davis has made it clear that he would oust Diller, the current co-chief executive of Vivendi's U.S. entertainment operations, if he succeeds in his bid for the Universal movie studio, theme parks and music group.

"For my stupid and cheesy attempt at humor at the end of a luncheon interview, I apologize," Diller said in a statement. "It was ungracious, uncalled for ... and inaccurate."

The men are old foes from their days at the 20th Century Fox studio, which Davis owned in the early 1980s. Tensions have resurfaced of late as Davis has questioned Diller's ability to juggle his role with Vivendi and his job as head of USA Interactive, the sprawling electronic commerce company.

A Davis spokesman said Diller did not directly apologize to Davis but informed his office through a USA Interactive spokesman that he was issuing a statement to the media.

Davis had no comment. But a source close to the 77-year-old, who has lost 130 pounds in recent months, said, "He had a good chuckle over it."

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