Key dates in Vivendi history

  • June 20, 2000: Vivendi announces its three-way merger with Seagram, owner of Universal Studios, and pay-television group Canal Plus.

  • Dec. 5, 2000: Shareholders approve the $34 billion deal. Afterward, Vivendi Chairman Jean-Marie Messier says, "Through your vote, Vivendi Universal is born."

  • May 20, 2001: Vivendi announces it is buying online music provider for $372 million.

  • Aug. 2, 2001: Vivendi closes on $2.2 billion acquisition of Houghton Mifflin Co.

  • Dec. 4, 2001: Vivendi sells 9 percent of its stake in Vivendi Environnement SA, the world's largest water utility, raising nearly $1.1 billion.

  • Dec. 14, 2001: Vivendi agrees to invest $1.5 billion in EchoStar Communications in a bid to launch new film channels and bring interactive television and subscription-music services to the United States.

  • Dec. 16, 2001: Vivendi Universal says it will buy the entertainment division of USA Networks Inc. and merge their entertainment units in a deal worth more than $10 billion. Barry Diller, chief executive of USA, will run the company.

  • Jan. 7, 2002: Vivendi sells 55 million of its shares in private transactions, raising $2.94 billion.

  • March 5, 2002: Vivendi posts a $12.7 billion loss for 2001, the biggest in French corporate history.

  • April 16, 2002: Messier fires Canal Plus Chief Executive Pierre Lescure, spawning protests.

  • May 3, 2002: Moody's Investor Service gives Vivendi its lowest investment-grade rating -- one notch above "junk" status.

  • May 6, 2002: Standard & Poor's cuts Vivendi's short-term debt rating to just above junk status.

  • May 29, 2002: Vivendi's board of directors creates a corporate governance committee co-chaired by Edgar Bronfman Jr.

  • June 17, 2002: Vivendi's board agrees to reduce ownership in Vivendi Environnement from 63 percent to about 40 percent.

  • July 2, 2002: Messier resigns under pressure.

  • July 3, 2002: The board names Jean-Rene Fourtou to replace Messier. Fourtou discloses a liquidity crisis.

  • July 9, 2002: France's stock-market regulator, the Commission des Operations de Bourse, says it has launched an investigation into financial information released by Vivendi since January 2001.

  • Aug. 30, 2002: Vivendi says it is selling its money-losing Internet venture, Vizzavi SA, and several French magazines, to help pay off massive debts.

  • Sept. 18, 2002: Vivendi signs a nearly $3 billion credit line with banks.

  • Oct. 29, 2002: The Paris public prosecutor's office opens a criminal investigation into Vivendi's financial disclosures under Messier.

  • Oct. 31, 2002: Vivendi announces it will sell Houghton Mifflin to a group of financiers including U.S. investment group Blackstone.

  • Nov. 19, 2002: The Securities and Exchange Commission announces a formal investigation of Vivendi Universal, in cooperation with a criminal probe by the U.S. Attorney's Office in New York.
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