Clearing the way for its handoff of control of NBC Universal, General Electric Co. this week spent $3.8 billion to buy out the remaining interest of its French partner, Vivendi.
Vivendi held on to a 20% stake in NBC Universal as part of the French company's 2004 deal when it sold the majority of its U.S. entertainment assets — including NBC, Universal Studios and cable channels USA Network and Syfy — to GE.
Last fall, GE began acquiring Vivendi's interest in preparation for NBC Universal's merger with the Philadelphia cable operator Comcast Corp. in a deal that is expected to close Friday. Comcast will own 51% of NBC Universal; GE will retain 49%. Comcast's agreement with GE allows GE to completely shed its entertainment holdings by 2018.
Vivendi agreed to sell its stake for $5.8 billion under terms of a deal reached in November 2009 when GE Chairman Jeffrey Immelt traveled to Paris to negotiate an exit strategy for Vivendi. Vivendi Chief Executive Jean-Bernard Levy, in a bid to extract as much as he could for Vivendi's share of NBC Universal, had been obstructing Immelt's attempts to engineer a merger with Comcast.