VU Games sheds staff; 350 laid off

Vivendi Universal Games announces the elimination of 350 staff positions as part of a "turnaround plan."

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Vivendi Universal Games today announced that it has eliminated 350 North American staff positions as part of its ongoing turnaround plan to improve operating effectiveness, reduce costs, and position for growth. The company's Blizzard Entertainment studio, which is currently working on the much-anticipated World of Warcraft, scheduled for release later this year, was not affected by the staff reduction.

"Restructuring the organization and reducing our cost base are necessary to improve our operating effectiveness and profitability," said Bruce Hack, CEO at VU Games. "This constitutes another important step in our turnaround plan aimed to better position the company for growth."

In addition to World of Warcraft, VU Games' 2004 release schedule includes the likes of Crash Twinsanity, Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude, The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay, Van Helsing, Ground Control II: Operation Exodus, Fight Club, and Spyro: A Hero's Tail.

Coincidently, the former chairman of VU Games' parent, Vivendi Universal, was arrested and detained by French authorities this morning in Paris. Jean-Marie Messier is reportedly being held and questioned by French police looking into his involvement in a possible stock manipulation scheme. This morning's arrest follows the arrest earlier this month of Guillaume Hannezo, Vivendi's former CFO, as well as two other Vivendi staffers.

Messier was removed by Vivendi's board of directors in July of 2002 at a time when the company was close to bankruptcy. Messier had put the company on a buying spree and stock repurchase binge that netted him the cover of Wired and netted its shareholders towering debt. To pay off the debt that built up during Messier's tenure, VU's current chairman, Jean-Rene Fourtou, has had to sell the company's 80 percent stake in its US film and TV businesses to General Electric-owned NBC.

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