Cash-hungry Vivendi Universal seems intent on undoing as much of its recent acquisition programme as possible, with its entire publishing division now said to be up for sale.

It was thought that only certain parts of Vivendi Universal Publishing would be offloaded. The media giant recently put US educational bookmaker Houghton-Mifflin up for grabs, and has already sold its French news magazine units and publisher Comareg to Socpresse [WAMN: 02-Aug-02].

However, new ceo Jean-René Fourtou was apparently so impressed by a number of speculative offers that he decided the whole of VUP can go. The deal could generate over €5 billion ($4.9bn; £3.2bn).

Two groups of buyout firms are said to be in talks with Vivendi over the VUP sale. One comprises Thomas H. Lee Partners, Blackstone Group, Bain Capital and Apax Partners; the other Carlyle Group and the private-equity arm of Lazard LLC. A further two consortia are said to be considering bids.

“No one’s sure what Vivendi is selling anymore,” said one confused insider. “They said all this stuff isn’t for sale, but now it seems everything’s fair game.”

Data sourced from: The Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff