This is a partial transcript from Your World with Neil Cavuto, September 4, 2003, that was edited for clarity. Click here for complete access to all of Neil Cavuto's CEO interviews.
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NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: It is tough to be one Edgar Bronfman, Jr. these days. When he lost the bid for Vivendi's (search) entertainment assets, he kind of lost the dream of recapturing his old business, and the chance to restore his pride, not to mention some of his family’s vast fortune. But those who know Edgar say never count him out of anything. So what is next for this media mogul? Let’s ask him. Edgar Bronfman, Jr. joins me now for an exclusive chat, his first since losing, ostensibly, the Vivendi auction.
Have you lost it, by the way?
EDGAR BRONFMAN JR., VIVENDI UNIVERSAL VICE CHMN.: Well, I really don’t look at it that way, I mean, obviously the deal with NBC (search) I think is going to go through. And I think, as it turned out, it was a better deal for Vivendi than they had, you know, probably a week ago. But I feel great. I mean, we took the biggest company in the world to the last pitch of the last inning of probably one of the largest and most complex transactions ever done. We had great partners, Cablevision was fantastic, Tom Lee, Blackstone, we put together, you know, a multi-billion dollar bid.
CAVUTO: So what happened, you had a lot more up-front cash, they wanted cash?
BRONFMAN: Look, hey, they’re GE (search), we weren’t. I mean, GE is the most powerful company in the world. They decided they wanted this company. And at the end of the day they did what was necessary to get the Vivendi board to do the deal.
CAVUTO: But you know, the question I have for you is it is not as if you just walk away and take your marbles. You’re still the largest shareholder in the company. You have a clear relationship with Barry Diller, who on the phone with me was telling me a couple of days ago, those guys still owe me about $2 1/2 billion, so you are still a player here.
BRONFMAN: Oh, yes. I mean, first of all, I definitely am still a player in the whole Vivendi mix, as being a large shareholder. I’m also still vice chairman of the board. I simply sort of recuse myself from participating during this bidding process.
CAVUTO: So are you back to now being vice chairman?
BRONFMAN: I actually never stopped being vice chairman. I just wasn’t participating in the board meetings. And I intend go back on the Vivendi board but I’m going to wait until the definitive agreements are signed.
CAVUTO: If the definitive agreement comes down to NBC taking over, I think they take four Vivendi directors with them, right?
BRONFMAN: I think three.
CAVUTO: Would you be among them?
BRONFMAN: I have no idea. That is up to Vivendi, and I haven’t had that discussion with Vivendi.
CAVUTO: Well, you are the No. 2 guy.
BRONFMAN: Yes. But I haven’t had that discussion at the board meeting. And I think, you know...
CAVUTO: It has not even cropped up?
BRONFMAN: No. Actually, not with me directly.
CAVUTO: You know, I know you wanted to vindicate maybe yourself, maybe your family, maybe the stake and you didn’t get that opportunity. Methinks that you are not done, that maybe music is in your future, after all, the music component was not up for grabs this time, would you be pursuing that?
BRONFMAN: Well, first off, I don’t look at it that way. This deal was not about vindication. I mean, what happened is what happened, which is we built a tremendous amount of value at Universal. We rebuilt the businesses that we found that were broken. We made the studio No. 1. We made the music group No. 1. We made theme parks No. 2. We built a lot of value.
CAVUTO: But if you had to do it all over again.
BRONFMAN: If I had to do it all over again, I would do it again. I think what happened in the merger with Vivendi was we sold at the top of the market for a phenomenal price. The idea was right, which was to marry content with distribution. And I think the mobile platform in Europe and the largest satellite platform in Europe, largest mobile platform, too, were great distribution vehicles.
CAVUTO: But did you have any inkling that Messier would be a disaster?
BRONFMAN: No, because frankly, when the thing started he had a real record of accomplishment. And the last six months of his reign at Vivendi Universal, it was just a complete disaster. And.
CAVUTO: So ironically you went from the guy who was closely linked up to him, to the guy who ultimately said good bye to him, right?
BRONFMAN: That’s right. I mean, I was the one who led the fight to get him out of there.
CAVUTO: Have you guys ever chatted since?
CAVUTO: Really, bad blood?
BRONFMAN: Well, I just don’t see any particular reason to talk to him.
CAVUTO: All right. What about talking to the Vivendi folks now, I mean, you are vice chairman of the board, you say, all right, what about music?
BRONFMAN: Look, I think they have got to get this deal done with NBC before they’re going to turn their attention anywhere. And frankly, they made their decision on Tuesday, it’s Thursday. It’s a little early for me to decide what I’m going to do next.
CAVUTO: But you know it is weird the way they made the decision. Essentially, I look at it as like a pinky ring agreement: We’re going to date exclusively, but they didn’t sign and seal the deal.
BRONFMAN: No, they didn’t. And I’m not sure why.
CAVUTO: Did you find it weird the way they made the announcement?
BRONFMAN: I found it unusual. I mean, certainly as a bidder it’s unusual to sign of a letter of intent rather than a definitive agreement. But I think that the timing worked out that they felt that that was the better way to go. And I think they feel confident they’re going to get their deal done with NBC.
CAVUTO: But you had said at the time that it would be a big mistake, you know, all sorts of problems would come up, but then you were very gentlemanly, very diplomatic about it after the fact. Which is this real Edgar Bronfman, Jr.?
BRONFMAN: Well, both, because I think that I felt and still feel that Vivendi needs a comprehensive real strategy going forward, and that it needs to get out of entertainment and into something else. But it needs to have a coherent strategy so that the investment community can get behind its equity. I think when I made the comments about NBC, it wasn’t clear that they were going to get much cash off the table. And they were kind of doubling down in entertainment. I think that was an error. But I think the deal moved dramatically. And I think they do have a clearer path to exit now through the NBC transaction. So I’m more comfortable as a shareholder that Vivendi is pursuing its path to give its investors a more coherent strategy.
CAVUTO: Now I used to work at GE and at CNBC, and they obviously mastered very quickly the broadcast world after getting RCA, but I don’t know about them running theme parks. What do you think of that, though?