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Aug 18, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Vivendi Shares Decline as Bidding Deadline Arrives

Shares in Vivendi Universal slipped more than 2.5 percent Monday to close at $17.06 as Wall Street awaited word on who would be entering the second round of bidding for Vivendi Universal Entertainment.

A person close to the company confirmed that the French conglomerate had received bids by the Monday deadline, however the source could not say how many bids or who submitted offers.

Vivendi’s board is slated to discuss the issue at its board meeting Aug. 26.

Two big players that are likely to help shape the future of a sale, General Electric’s NBC and cable giant Comcast, weren’t expected to submit bids by today’s deadline, in part because both companies are holding separate ongoing discussions about forming alliances with VUE. Comcast last week ruled out making a formal bid for the Vivendi assets, which include a film studio, a television production company and three cable channels.

However, bids were expected from an investment team headed up by Vivendi Vice Chairman Edgar Bronfman Jr. and possibly from Liberty Media. Other would-be bidders, including Viacom and an investment team headed up by oil billionaire Marvin Davis, were seen as less likely to step up. MGM, which at one point had the highest offer on the table at $11.5 billion, said a few weeks ago that it would not pursue VUE.

One reason a question mark looms over the bidding process is Vivendi’s demand that contenders offer at least $14 billion for the assets — a price tag that is widely viewed as inflated and that few expect bidders to come close to reaching.

If the bids submitted today fall short of Vivendi’s asking price, the company’s ongoing talks with NBC and Comcast could provide it with a fallback option and avoid the embarrassment that its controversial auction process was flawed.

Vivendi has also said it would explore an initial public offering of VUE, though most observers say such an option is far down on its list, in part because of U.S. and French investigations into company under ousted Vivendi Chairman Jean-Marie Messier.

NBC Newsman Roy Neal Dead at 82: Longtime NBC newsman Roy Neal died Aug. 15 in High Point, N.C., from complications following heart surgery. He was 82.

One of his two sons, NBC Olympics executive VP David Neal, who himself has spent 25 years with NBC, said, “He is my hero. He is the reason I’m in this business.”

The elder Mr. Neal got his TV training as program manager for the Armed Forces Radio Network in occupied German at the end of World War II, and put that experience to work in radio and then local TV in his native Philadelphia.

He joined NBC in 1948 and over the next 38 years took on a number of assignments, ranging from starting a Los Angeles bureau to covering the space program. He reported on every manned space flight from the first, in 1961, which carried Alan Shepard, through the first couple of shuttle missions. On the night of the Apollo 13 tragedy, his colleagues voted him the pool reporter to go into NASA Mission Control.

After he retired in 1986, Mr. Neal chaired the Shuttle Amateur Radio Experiment, which puts amateur radios aboard space shuttles and sets up conversations from space between licensed astronauts and schoolchildren throughout the world. He also was a member of the board of directors of the Astronaut Hall of Fame in Cape Canaveral, Fla.

In addition to son David, he is survived by wife Pat and son Mark of High Point.

FCC’s MacBride Announces Resignation: In a move that’s sure to spark a new series of rumors about Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell’s impending departure, Marsha MacBride, his longtime chief of staff, announced her resignation today. Ms. Macbride said she will “pursue new opportunities.” Susan Eid, Mr. Powell’s top adviser on media industry affairs, also stepped down recently. But Mr. Powell has denied plans to step down. He has scheduled a press conference in Washington Wednesday to discuss his regulatory plans for the rest of the year. “He’s moving ahead on his agenda for the fall,” said David Fiske, an FCC spokesman.

Capitol Joins Move to Stay Ownership Cap: Capitol Broadcasting, licensee of WRAL-TV in Raleigh, N.C., has joined a coalition of watchdog groups in asking the Federal Communications Commission to stay its revised media ownership rules to give Congress an opportunity to overturn the regulations. “This commission should demonstrate its respect for the large number of members of Congress who have unambiguously demonstrated their disapproval,” the group said. Signing on with Capitol Broadcasting were the Communications Workers of America, Consumers Union, the Parents Television Council and the United Sates Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Voice-Over, Animation Emmys Announced: The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences has announced the Emmy winners in the Voice-Over Performance and Individual Achievement in Animation categories.

Hank Azaria, who performs various characters on “The Simpsons,” won for voice-over. Scott Wills (“Samurai Jack”) and Maciek Albrecht (segments in HBO’s “Through A Child’s Eye: September 11, 2001”) won for individual animation.

The 55th Annual Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards will be held Sept. 13 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.

Thompson to Appear on ’24’: Andrea Thompson has signed to appear on Fox drama “24” in a recurring role. She will play Nicole Duncan, a technical specialist brought in by CTU to help prevent a terrorist attack. Ms. Thompson will first appear in the Nov. 11 episode. This will be Ms. Thompson’s first acting role since she left her role as Detective Jill Kirkendall on “NYPD Blue” to become a broadcast journalist.

Dick Clark Productions Acquires Paintball Rights: Dick Clark Productions has acquired the broadcast TV rights to Professional League Paintball. PLP is a national paintball league in its first season, with teams in Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Oakland and Philadelphia. The deal includes the option for a celebrity paintball-themed reality show.

Mueller Joins ‘Passions’ Cast: Heidi Mueller, who was featured in the NBC reality show “Who Wants to Marry My Dad?” is joining the cast of daytime soap opera “Passions” in a contract role. She will play Kay Bennett, the manipulative daughter of Harmony Police Chief Sam Bennett and his wife, Grace.

Her first episode will air Oct. 23. It is Ms. Mueller’s first acting role. On “Who Wants to Marry My Dad?” Ms. Mueller and her three siblings chose a woman for their dad to marry.

Jewel Enters ‘The Lyon’s Den’: Singer Jewel has signed on for a three episode arc on NBC’s new drama “The Lyon’s Den,” starring Rob Lowe. She will play a Department of Justice lawyer who faces off against her former fiance (Mr. Lowe) in an important case. The episodes will air this fall.

“The Lyon’s Den” was created by writer and executive producer Remi Aubuchon (“24”). Rob Lowe, Kevin Falls (“The West Wing”), Brad Grey (“The Sopranos”) and Bernie Brillstein (“Just Shoot Me”) are the executive producers. Dan Sackheim (“Kingpin”) is executive producer and director. “The Lyon’s Den” is a production of 20th Century Fox and Brad Grey Television.

Dozier Named CBS Correspondent in Tel Aviv: Kimberly Dozier has been appointed as a CBS News correspondent based in Tel Aviv nearly 18 months after she was posted there as correspondent for network-owned New York station WCBS-TV’s Middle East bureau in Jerusalem. From 1996 to 2001, she was a London-based reporter for CBS News and bureau chief for CBS Radio News.

Pax TV, Little Debbie Join for Promotion: Pax TV is teaming up with Little Debbie snack cakes for a six-month-long national promotion titled “Little Debbie … Big Rewards.” Up to 60 million specially marked Little Debbie boxes offering consumers a chance to win more than 150 prizes such as family vacations, cruises, video game systems, movie passes, theme park tickets, DVDs and more.

Beginning in November, Pax TV will run on-air spots directing viewers to local grocers where they can pick up snack cake packages and details about how to win prizes. The campa
ign will be supported by print advertisements in national magazines, on the Pax Network and on 25 local Pax stations.

Consumers will be directed to watch Pax programming on the first Wednesday of every month from December through April. Viewers will be prompted to call throughout the evening and those who win instantly will have an opportunity to answer a Little Debbie bonus question. Consumers can get full details and register to win online at www.pax.tv.