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Vivendi, Diller in Talks on NBC-Universal

InteractiveCorp chief executive Barry Diller said Monday he is talking to French entertainment and telecommunications firm Vivendi Universal about the sale of his stake in Vivendi’s entertainment arm as it merges with NBC.

Diller said he has had “superficial discussions” with Vivendi’s chief executive about unwinding the complicated partnership known as Vivendi Universal Entertainment.

But he said the talks cannot be characterized as negotiations and that he is just as happy to keep his shares once General Electric Co.’s NBC division completes its purchase later this year.

“We’re not anxious,” Diller said while speaking at a media conference in Phoenix that was Webcast. “We’re not overly motivated because the securities we have are in better hands.”

Diller and Vivendi have often been at odds about the value of his shares. InteractiveCorp, formerly known as USA Interactive, took a 5.4 percent stake in VUE in 2001. Diller personally has a 1.5 percent stake.

The two sides disagree about whether Vivendi owes InteractiveCorp millions to compensate it for taxes that would become due if InteractiveCorp and Diller sell their stake. The dispute is the subject of a lawsuit.

Diller said that GE has expressed its desire for Diller to give up his stake before its purchase of Vivendi’s entertainment assets closes. He said he is willing to cooperate to that end, but will not be disappointed if an agreement is not reached.

“We’re happy to get rid of the whole thing if in fact we get every dollar that we believe that those interests are valued at,” Diller said while speaking at the annual Citigroup Smith Barney media conference. “If we don’t, we’ll live with our current transaction.”

Diller said he believed that a deal would be reached before the NBC-Vivendi deal closes. “I think it happens in the next six months or it doesn’t happen at all,” Diller said.

InterActiveCorp owns Ticketmaster, Expedia, Match.com and the Home Shopping Network.

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