Report: Diller Reaches Deal With Vivendi Universal

Vivendi Universal has approved a $10 billion deal in which it will purchase the entertainment assets of Barry Diller's USA Networks and make the media mogul head of Universal Studios, the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday.

Vivendi Universal confirmed last week that it was negotiating with Diller and his USA Networks to "increase synergies" with Vivendi's production divisions, including its highly successful Universal Studios and USA's distribution outlets such as the Sci-Fi Channel and USA Network.

According to a source close to negotiations, the French conglomerate approved the purchase of the USA Networks assets on Friday.

USA's board was expected to give its approval on Sunday. The deal is also subject to approval by USA Networks shareholders. It's unclear whether the purchase must also be reviewed by federal regulators.

Neither Vivendi nor USA officials were available for comment.

Under the deal, Diller would head a new Vivendi-controlled company that would combine its Universal Studios theme parks and movie studio with his cable networks, television production unit and film company.

The deal also would reunite Universal with assets that former owner Seagram sold to Diller in 1998 for $4.1 billion. Universal, which has owned 43 percent of USA Networks, now would have controlling interest in USA's entertainment business.

The agreement does not include Universal Music Group. Vivendi plans to keep the world's largest music company and its publishing operations separate. And USA is not selling its Home Shopping Network and Internet companies, which include Ticketmaster.

Vivendi, the world's second-largest media company, hopes that Diller can expand its presence in the United States to compete with the likes of AOL Time Warner, Walt Disney Co. and Viacom.