* Liberty sued Vivendi in 2003 over 2001 USA Network deal
* Liberty accused Vivendi of fraud, breach of contract
* Vivendi contests verdict, says will appeal
By Basil Katz
NEW YORK, June 25 A U.S. federal jury found on
Monday that French entertainment group Vivendi must pay
$954.6 million in damages to Liberty Media Corp in a
2003 breach of contract lawsuit.
The Manhattan federal court jury found that U.S. cable
operator Liberty Media was entitled to 765 million euros in
damages after it sued Vivendi accusing it of fraud in a 2001
agreement where Liberty Media swapped its stock in the USA
Network in exchange for a stake in Vivendi.
The four-week trial was overseen by U.S. District Judge
Shira Scheindlin. The jury voted against Vivendi on one breach
of contract and one fraud claim, Liberty Media attorney Michael
Vivendi in a statement on Monday said it "strongly
disagrees" with the verdict.
"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," Vivendi said.
Vivendi bought the USA Network in 2001 in a deal worth at
least $10.3 billion as part of then Chairman and Chief Executive
Jean-Marie Messier's plan to transform Vivendi from a utilities
firm into one of the world's largest media companies.
As part of the deal, Vivendi gave billionaire John Malone's
Liberty 32 million treasury shares in exchange for part of its
stake in USA Network and another 5.2 million shares for its
holding in a European cable joint venture with Vivendi.
"Liberty is very gratified by the jury verdict and that the
jury has found that Vivendi should live up to its contract,"
In a statement on Monday, Englewood, Colorado-based Liberty
Media Corp said that although the money award would not be final
until the judge rules on other issues, the company expects the
judge to uphold the verdict if Vivendi seeks to challenge it.
"Liberty is confident that the court will deny that request
and that the jury's decision will stand," Liberty said.
The case is Liberty Media v. Vivendi Universal, U.S.
District Court for the Southern District of New York, No