- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 20, 2003

LOS ANGELES (AP) Barry Diller resigned as co-chief executive of Vivendi Universal Entertainment yesterday, saying it was appropriate for him to step down while the cash-strapped conglomerate considers bids for its entertainment assets.
Mr. Diller was appointed interim CEO of Vivendi Universal's U.S.-based entertainment assets, which include Universal Studios and Universal's theme parks, last year while the Paris-based conglomerate concentrated on repaying a massive debt racked up from an acquisition spree by previous management.
Former oilman Marvin Davis has offered $20 billion for VUE, plus Universal Music Group. Vivendi also is holding talks with Viacom, MGM and other potential buyers of all or parts of its entertainment businesses.
Mr. Diller served as co-CEO with Vivendi Universal Chairman Jean-Rene Fourtou.
"My executive role was never intended to be permanent," Mr. Diller said in a statement. "Now that Vivendi Universal has begun a formal process in reviewing options for its entertainment assets, it is appropriate to step aside from any direct management responsibility."
Mr. Diller, 61, remains chief executive officer of USA Interactive, which operates the Home Shopping Network, Ticketmaster, Match.com and Expedia, among other companies.
Mr. Diller will continue to play a critical role in the future of Vivendi's entertainment arm.
He personally owns 1.5 percent of VUE; USA Interactive holds a 5.4 percent stake and preferred stock in VUE.
Mr. Diller has served as head of Paramount and Twentieth Century Fox, where he helped start the Fox television network.
While at Fox, he was instrumental in creating such shows as "Married with Children" and "The Simpsons."
He started his entertainment career at ABC, where he is credited with creating the "movie of the week" concept.
In a recent interview, Mr. Diller told the Associated Press he would be interested in an opportunity to bid for some of Vivendi's entertainment assets as long as it did not require him to serve as chief executive.
Mr. Diller said his top interest is serving as head of USA Interactive.
"I think most people felt he probably couldn't run two public companies," said Richard Read, an analyst who follows USA Interactive for Credit Lyonnais Securities. "This reiterates his commitment to USA Interactive, which is a good thing."
Shares of USA Interactive fell $1.64 to $24.85 on the New York Stock Exchange.
Vivendi barely staved off bankruptcy last year as it struggled to cope with billions of dollars in debt, a collapsing share price, boardroom infighting and no clear strategy.

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