On Monday, a federal jury in New York found that the French entertainment group Vivendi had not performed its part in a contract with Liberty Media Corp in 2003. Vivendi has been ordered to pay an amount of $954.6 million in damages arising from breach of contract.
The federal court jury in Manhattan found that Liberty Media, the U.S. cable operator had a claim of 765 million euros in damages following its lawsuit against Vivendi accusing Vivendi of fraud in a 2001 agreement by which Liberty Media swapped its stock in the USA Network for a stake in Vivendi.
The trial, which ran for four weeks, was presided over by U.S. District Judge Shira Schneindlin. The jury found Vivendi guilty of fraud and breach of contract.
In a statement issued on Monday, Vivendi said that it “strongly disagrees” with the jury verdict and added, “Vivendi believes that there are many grounds for appeal and continues to believe strongly that it did nothing wrong and will continue to vigorously defend itself in any subsequent appellant proceedings.”
In 2001, Vivendi purchased the USA Network in a deal worth more than $10 billion. The acquisition was part of Vivendi CEO Jean-Marie Messier’s strategy of metamorphosing Vivendi from a utilities firm to one of the largest media companies in the world. As a part of the deal, John Malone’s Liberty Media Corp was given 32 million treasury shares in exchange of its stake in the USA Network, and was given another 5.2 million shares for its holding in a European joint venture with Vivendi.
In an official statement, Liberty Media Corp said that “Liberty is very gratified by the jury verdict and that the jury has found that Vivendi should live up to its contract.”
The case is Liberty Media v. Vivendi Universal, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, No 03-2175.