Media giant Vivendi Universal said Thursday that Edgar Bronfman Jr., part of the family behind the Seagram media and liquor empire, will step down from his executive role at the company but remain on the board.

Bronfman, 46, is the former chief executive of Seagram, the Canadian company that was sold to France's Vivendi last year to form the French-American conglomerate Vivendi Universal.

His resignation as executive vice chairman will take effect at the end of the first quarter next year, but Bronfman will continue as vice chairman of the board and remain a close adviser to the company's chairman, Jean-Marie Messier, Vivendi said in a statement.

The company did not say if Bronfman would be replaced.

Messier said Bronfman had a "window" on the first anniversary of the merger under his contract with Vivendi and "has decided that the time has come for him to seek new business opportunities."

Bronfman said in a statement that his family had no plans to sell shares of the company in 2002. The family has a 5.5 percent stake in Vivendi Universal.

Bronfman led the move to transform Seagram into a media company, orchestrating purchases of Dutch music company Polygram in 1998 and Hollywood's Universal Studios in 1995.

In the Vivendi statement, Bronfman said he had "no firm plans other than to remain an active and constructive board member."

In a separate letter to Vivendi employees released Thursday, Bronfman said he shared Messier's vision for the company and said Messier's "energy and focus are the necessary ingredients to drive this company forward."

"Though I don't know precisely what lies ahead, I am excited at the prospect of building another business," he said.

Bronfman's announcement came a day after the unrelated announcement by Gerald Levin that he is retiring in May as chief executive of AOL Time Warner Inc.