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Vivendi Chairman Fourtou to Retire After Split

Vivendi SA Chairman Jean-Rene Fourtou plans to retire after he is done overseeing a full split of the French telecommunications-to-media conglomerate.

Fourtou said in an interview published by the newspaper Le Monde today that he will step down, and his comments were confirmed by Paris-based Vivendi. The 74-year-old Frenchman has headed the company’s board since 2005.

“I want to leave Vivendi in a stronger position so the company can make a new start with a more flexible, more focused structure,” Fourtou was cited as saying. “I’ll leave when a split of Vivendi into two segments is complete.”

Vivendi is weighing whether to carve out its French phone unit SFR to prepare it for an initial public offering, or instead separate its media assets into a new structure, Fourtou told Le Monde. Vivendi isn’t willing to sell SFR outright, though no one has bid for the asset, he said.

As part of plans to overhaul its structure to boost its market valuation, Vivendi is in exclusive talks to sell its stake in Maroc Telecom SA to Emirates Telecommunications Corp., and is divesting its stake in video-game maker Activision Blizzard Inc. Deliberations are under way internally about how Vivendi’s remaining assets -- record label Universal Music Group Inc., pay-TV company Canal Plus and Brazilian Internet unit GVT -- will be structured as two separate entities.

Fourtou will consider handing his post over to Vivendi shareholder and Vice Chairman Vincent Bollore when he retires, he said, according to Le Monde. Vivendi will also seek a new chief executive officer for its future media division, he said. Current CEO Jean-Francois Dubos will stay in his post until the split is done, Fourtou said.

Vivendi shares gained 1.7 percent to 17.17 euros at 12:48 p.m. in Paris trading, giving the company a market value of 23 billion euros ($31 billion). They have jumped 12 percent in the past 12 months.

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