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Carlyle Group Joins Davis in Universal Bid, Source Says

March 01, 2003|Richard Verrier | Times Staff Writer

One of the world's leading private equity firms has joined a consortium headed by oil tycoon Marvin Davis that is seeking to buy the U.S. entertainment assets of Vivendi Universal, a source said.

Carlyle Group, a private global investment company based in Washington, recently joined Davis, Bain Capital and Texas Pacific in the bid, said a person close to the consortium. The group hopes that Carlyle's addition will help sell the group's offer to Vivendi's French owners and give it more financial flexibility to secure a deal.

The Davis camp recently renewed its offer to buy a $13-billion controlling interest in the assets, which include Universal's movie studio, theme parks, television properties and music company.

But Vivendi's French owners are weighing other potential offers. Several other parties have expressed interest in buying pieces of the Universal group, including Viacom Inc., News Corp. and Liberty Media Corp.

The architect of the Davis offer, former Seagram Co. Chief Financial Officer Brian Mulligan, is said to have secured preliminary financial commitments from Bank of America, Fleet Boston and Deutsche Bank to help finance an acquisition.

Since its inception in 1987, Carlyle Group has invested more than $7.2 billion of equity in 263 transactions with a value of more than $19 billion. Carlyle's advisors have included ex-President George Bush; his secretary of state, James A. Baker III; and former British Prime Minister John Major.

Carlyle Group could not be reached for comment Friday.

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