Bronfman to stand trial in Vivendi probe: reports

Montreal-born businessman Edgar Bronfman, Jr. will be one of seven executives who will stand trial in a police probe into entertainment conglomerate Vivendi SA, reports suggest.

Montreal-born businessman Edgar Bronfman Jr. will be one of seven executives who will stand trial in a French police probe into entertainment conglomerate Vivendi SA, reports said Thursday.

Bronfman and other former executives will stand trial on charges of misleading investors while they were transforming the once-stodgy water utility into a high-flying film, music and pay TV giant, French officials said.

Edgar Bronfman Jr., chairman and CEO of Warner Music Group, faces charges in relation to his time as an executive in French media conglomerate Vivendi SA, French investigators say. ((Mark Lennihan/Associated Press))

"It's quite a surprise, especially regarding Edgar Bronfman," the Financial Post newspaper quotes lawyer Thierry Marembert as saying.

Bronfman became a vice-chairman of the company when Vivendi bought his family's Seagram distillery business in 2000, becoming Vivendi Universal. Bronfman was CEO of Seagram at the time.

At the time, media and entertainment companies were undergoing a wave of consolidation and Seagram's Universal Music unit was the largest music company in the world. Vivendi planned to quickly divest the historic distillery arm.

"We are confident that Edgar Bronfman's good faith will be recognized at the end of the day," the paper quotes Marembert as saying.

The decision to proceed with a trial ignores a recommendation by Paris prosecutors earlier this year that the case be thrown out.

Prosecutors cited insufficient evidence. But the examining magistrates investigating the case were not obliged to follow the prosecutors' recommendation.

It was not immediately clear when the trial would be held.

The probe began in 2002 after a complaint by shareholders alleging that the company deliberately misled investors into buying or holding Vivendi stock.

With files from The Associated Press