A cheering crowd of 10,000 Vivendi shareholders, gathered beneath the pyramid at the Louvre museum in Paris, approved the company's three-way merger with Universal Studios owner Seagram and Canal Plus by a massive 95%. Seagram's shareholders had previously voted the merger by a 90.4% majority.
Canal Plus' shareholders are meeting on Friday morning but are highly unlikely to reject the deal given that Vivendi already owns a 49% stake in the French pay-TV giant.
The merger, which values Seagram at $22.3bn and the new combine at $77bn, creates the world's second largest media and entertainment group in the world after AOL-Time Warner (a union that is still fighting its corner against regulators in Washington). Vivendi Universal, whose projected 2000 revenues are put at $22.2bn, has already sailed through the regulatory approval process in Canada, Europe and the US. Messier predicted annual growth in gross operating profit through 2002 of 35%.
A beaming Messier stage-managed a tub-thumping presentation worthy of a US political party convention. Surrounding him were his top lieutenant's, Seagram chief Edgar Bronfman (beamed in live from Montreal), Vivendi's Eric Licoys and Canal Plus chief Pierre Lescure. This top quartet was billed as Vivendi Universal's "four aces" in a video presentation.
Messier also confirmed the executive management of the new combine's five departments: Ron Meyer was formally endorsed as head of Universal Studios; Doug Morris will continue as head of Universal Music; Agnes Touraine will run the publishing activities; Philippe Germond will spearhead the telecoms operations; and USA Networks chairman Barry Diller will oversee television activities, excluding Universal's TV assets and Canal Plus.
"If I was a film producer," quipped Messier, "I would tell you: the script is perfect and the casting is superb."
While there were few dissenters among the attendant throng, who clearly enjoyed the show, there were still a few concerns about the price being paid for Universal Studios and its affect on Vivendi's "shareholder value", especially in light of the recent plunge in media and technology stock prices. The French Stock Exchange, however, brushed such scepticism aside: at the close yesterday, Canal Plus had gained 6.06% (to Euros150. 50) and Vivendi had risen 5.11% (to Euros74) after Seagram's shareholder approval had been announced.
Seagram shares rose C$3.25 to C$79.50 on the Toronto Stock Exchange in early trading.