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Once again, the Americans and the French are butting heads. This time, Liberty Media Corporation, a media company based in Englewood, Colorado, has accused the embattled Vivendi Universal S.A. of engaging in deceptive bargaining tactics. The suit, filed on March 28 in federal district court in Manhattan, hinges on a 2001 transaction in which Liberty picked up 37.3 million shares of Vivendi stock in exchange for a substantial piece of Liberty’s stake in USA Interactive, the New York�based parent of HSN (formerly Home Shopping Network, Inc.). In its complaint, Liberty seeks unspecified damages as well as rescission of the 2001 transaction. Liberty claims that during negotiations in December 2001 the French media company concealed its dire cash shortages and rising indebtedness. Vivendi had amassed $1.9 billion in debt since Jean-Marie Messier became the company’s CEO in 2000. Since the deal closed in May 2002, Vivendi stock has plunged to a fraction of what it once was. Vivendi, skeptical of Liberty’s motivations, has accused Liberty of filing the suit in order to gain leverage in its ongoing negotiations to buy an interest in some of Vivendi’s entertainment assets. The suit was recently transferred from Chief Judge Michael Mukasey to Judge Harold Baer, Jr., who is also presiding over the class action securities litigation brought against Vivendi last summer by purchasers of its stock. A conference with Judge Baer is set for June 3 to determine whether the suit will be consolidated with Vivendi’s related class action litigation. For Plaintiff Liberty Media Corporation (Englewood, Colorado) In-house: General counsel Charles Tanabe. Baker Botts (Houston): Paul Enzinna, Steven Gustavson, R. Stan Mortenson, and associates Stacy Paxson and J. Evans Rice. (All are in the firm’s Washington, D.C., office, except for Gustavson, who is in New York.) Liberty is a longtime client of the firm. For Defendant Vivendi Universal S.A. (Paris) In-house: Vice president and corporate counsel George Bushnell. Cravath, Swaine & Moore (New York): Paul Saunders, Daniel Slifkin, and associates M. Franklin Boyd, Lawrence Buterman, and Timothy Cameron. Cravath has worked with Vivendi since the company merged with The Seagram Company Ltd. and a French satellite-cable provider, CANAL+ Group, in 2000. Cravath is also Vivendi’s principal counsel in the pending securities class action litigation.

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