Bronfman to step out of the limelight at Vivendi

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The Independent Online

Edgar Bronfman will step down as executive vice-chairman of the media giant Vivendi Universal next year, leaving the Frenchman Jean-Marie Messier at centre stage.

Vivendi said that Mr Bronfman, head of Canada's Seagram before it merged with France's Vivendi last year, would step down at the end of the first quarter 2002, though he would remain non-executive vice-chairman of the board.

"I deeply regret Edgar's decision but fully understand his wishes," Mr Messier said. He said Mr Bronfman was standing down to spend more time on his "personal and family interests".

Mr Bronfman, 45, said he had no plans to sell his3 per cent stake in Vivendi for at least a year, and said he would remain an active board member. Mr Bronfman's departure should not upset the group's management and analysts said it ended the risk of conflict at the helm.

Analysts have long speculated over the ambitious Mr Bronfman's willingness to play second fiddle to Mr Messier, a self-styled rebel against French conservatism whose face has been splashed over magazine covers since he transformed a once cumbersome conglomerate into a global media powerhouse. "I would consider this news quite positive given that it confirms Jean-Marie Messier as the only chief on board and it will avoid any potential managerial conflict," said Sylvie Sejournet, at Fortis Securities.

The Bronfman family, which formerly owned 20 per cent of the drinks and entertainment group Seagram, became the biggest shareholder in Vivendi Universal at its creation, with a 7.7 per cent stake, which has since fallen to 6.1 per cent. Mr Bronfman's pledge not to sell applied only to his 3 per cent, and not to the rest of the family holding, a spokesman said.