Vivendi shareholders back spinoff of Universal Music Group

Vivendi shareholders overwhelmingly backed the spinoff of its lucrative Universal Music Group, home to recording artists like Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga and Ed Sheeran.

With more than 99 percent approval, shareholders on Tuesday voted in favor of the plan to distribute 60 percent of UMG’s shares to existing Vivendi shareholders and to list the company on the Euronext Amsterdam stock exchange. The French media giant said the listing would take place on Sept. 21.

The critical vote comes days after Pershing Square Tontine Holdings, the blank-check company of billionaire investor Bill Ackman, bought a 10 percent stake in UMG for roughly $4 billion.

Ackman’s deal, which was announced on Sunday, values UMG at about $41.55 billion. A consortium led by Chinese tech giant Tencent Holdings already owns a 20 percent equity stake in the group. Vivendi, controlled by French billionaire Vincent Bolloré, is planning to cash in on the music company by spinning off the entity to existing shareholders.

Lady Gaga performing on stage.
Lady Gaga is one of Universal Music Group’s top recording artists.
Getty Images

Even though the spinoff has been given the green light from investors, it has drawn criticism from activist hedge funds, Artisan Partners and Bluebell. They claim that the spinoff disproportionately benefits larger shareholders, including Bolloré, over smaller investors.

Nonetheless, Tuesday’s vote puts UMG on a path to join rival Warner Music Group in the public market. The third-largest recording label, which owns Atlantic, Elektra, Warner Records and music publisher Warner Chappell Music, listed on the Nasdaq last June.

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