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Universal Story - Apple Officially Denies Making Universal Offer, Vivendi Disavows Bebear Comments

by , 4:00 PM EDT, April 16th, 2003

In a surprise move, considering Apple's usual closed-lipped handling of rumors, Apple has released a press release denying ever having made an offer to buy "a major music company." This is a clear reference to the LA Times story that broke last week that said Apple was in talks with Vivendi International to acquire Universal Music. The company's press statement:

Apple has never made any offer to invest in or acquire a major music company. The press statements this morning attributed to Vivendi board member Claude Bebear are untrue, as Mr. Bebear has confirmed in a later report," said Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO. "Beyond these comments, we will abide by Apple's policy of not commenting on rumors."

The statement comes just a couple of hours before Apple's Q2 conference call, scheduled for 5:00 PM EDT (2:00 PM PDT), and as Apple's stock has been hammered by Wall Street due to the rumors.

AAPL is trading at 13.279, a loss of 0.111 (-0.83%) on heavy volume of 15,650,730 shares trading hands.

The comments from Claude Bebear, a board member of Vivendi International's, to which Apple referred have been widely reported throughout the Internet today. Those comments, originally reported by Bloomberg, were to the effect that Apple had indeed made an offer on Universal Music. The subsequent denial from Mr. Bebear was reported by Reuters:

"Regarding a report by Bloomberg, Claude Bebear denies having given a view on any negotiations which may be underway," a spokesman said, reading a statement given to him by Bebear. "He believes that as a director it is not up to him to make such a declaration," the spokesman added.

You can read the original comments as re-reported by The Register.

In related news, TMO reported earlier today that someone has registered the domain name of AppleUniversal.com in Apple's name.

The Mac Observer Spin:

What a snowstorm this has turned into. You know it has gotten serious when Apple makes a statement about something the company deems a rumor; but then this isn't a story being reported by one of the juvenile Mac rumor sites, but instead it has been reported and "confirmed" by the LA Times, Forbes, Fortunes, Reuters, Billboard, the Wall Street Journal, and just about every other major news outlet. Worse yet, it's affecting Apple's stock price, and that's always a serious issue.

It would be interesting to know exactly where the Bloomberg comments from Mr. Bebear originally came from. In the game of corporate politics, it's hard to know what's what.

That said, it seems clear that Apple has not made an actual offer on Universal Music. Note that Apple's press release didn't deny or confirm that the company was discussing such an issue with anyone, just that it was adamant that it had not made any sort of offer on Universal. That's a very clear statement with little room for sleight of hand.

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