a media industry resource

MCA, Seagram and Universal: Chronology


This chronology is indicative only. It covers -

  • antecedents (1832)
  • MCA swallows Universal (1957)
  • early Seagram diversification (1980)
  • Matsushita swallows MCA (1990)
  • Seagram moves into media (1994)
  • Vivendi buys Seagram (2000)

Context is provided by the broader communications and media timeline on this site.

A more detailed chronology of CGE, Vivendi and Vivendi Universal forms part of the separate Vivendi profile. There is a supplementary chronology of Polygram, Deutsche Grammophon and Decca.


1853 Compagnie Générale des Eaux (CGE) founded in Paris as civil engineering and utilities company

1854 CGE supplies water to Nantes

1869 Joseph Seagram becomes partner in Waterloo distillery (founded 1857)

1883 buys out partners in Waterloo operation, forms Joseph Seagram & Sons

1898 Deutsche Grammophon (DG) founded

1912 Universal Film Manufacturing Co formed in New York by Carl Laemmle, later becomes Universal Pictures

1918 Konsuke Matsushita founds predecessor of Matsushita Electric Industrial

1924 Bronfman family forms Distillers Corporation Limited in Canada

1924 Music Corporation of America (MCA) talent agency founded

1928 Distillers Corporation merges with Seagram

1929 Decca records founded in UK

1940 French legislation splits Agence Havas, with news service nationalised as Office Français d'Information (later Agence Française de Presse)

1946 Universal Pictures merges with independent production company International Pictures to become Universal International

1949 Seagram buys Chivas Bros in UK

1952 Universal International is sold to Decca Records

1952 Seagram buys Mumm and Perrier-Jouet champagne in France

MCA swallows Universal

1957 MCA buys Paramount's pre-1948 film library for US$50m

1958 MCA buys Universal's 750 acre back lot for US$11m

1960 Dutch electronics group Philips buys Mercury records

1962 Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss form A&M Records

1962 Decca sells Universal to MCA

1963 Seagram buys Texas Pacific Coal & Oil

1972 Philips and Siemens merge recording interests as Polygram, buy Verve records

1972 CGE constructs la Défense office complex in Paris

1975 Spielberg's Jaws marks Universal's revival as major distributor

1978 Seagram buys Glenlivet and wine and spirits division of Dalgety Australia

1980 Polygram buys Decca

1980 CGE buys Compagnie Generale de Chauffe, becomes largest private energy group in France

Early Seagram diversification

1980 Seagram buys 32% stake in Conoco oil group

1980 Seagram gains 24% stake in Du Pont by selling Conoco

1983 CGE and Havas media group establish Canal+ pay television group (CGE has 15% stake)

1985 Seagram buys Continental Distillers of Australia

1985 MCA buys Chess records

1986 MCA buys 42% stake in Cineplex Odeon cinema chain

1987 Siemens sells Polygram stake to Philips

1987 MCA Universal buys license for WOR-TV from RKO General in forced divestiture

1987 Durand buys Amphion and Eschig catalogues

1987 French government sells stake in Havas

1987 CGE establishes telephone subsidiary

1988 Seagram buys Martell cognac in France and Tropicana fruit juice group in US

1988 CGE buys global construction group Société Générale d'Enterprises

1989 Polygram buys A&M Records from Alpert & Moss for US$500m

Matsushita swallows MCA

1990 Sony rival Matsushita buys MCA for US$6.1bn

1990 MCA buys Geffen records

1992 CGE sells hospital and healthcare operations for US$1.8bn

1992 Canal+ establishes CanalSatellite

1993 Polygram buys Motown records

1994 CGE awarded BOOT contract for Illawarra and Woronora water plants in Australia

Seagram moves into media

1994 Seagram buys 14.5% stake in Time Warner

1995 Seagram sells Du Pont stake, buys MCA from Matsushita for US$5.7bn and renames it Universal Studios

1995 Seagram buys Dole global fruit juice group

1996 Seagram sells Putnam Berkley book publishing group to Pearson for US$300m

1996 US Telecommunications Act results in billions of dollars of broadcast properties changing hands

1996 CGE subsidiary Cegetel becomes 2nd-largest telecommunications operator in France

1996 CGE subsidiary United Water becomes responsible for water and wastewater in Adelaide

1996 Pathé floated on Paris Bourse

1996 Havas corporate and leisure travel arm Havas Voyages SA forms joint venture with American Express

1997 CGE buys Linjebuss, second largest public transportation company in Scandinavia and 47.5% of New Zealand's United Water

1997 Seagram buys remaining 50% of USA network from Viacom for US$1.7bn

1997 CGE buys 30% of Havas

1997 buys NetHold, second largest pay-TV operator in Continental Europe

Vivendi established

1998 CGE group renamed Vivendi, buys rest of Havas

1998 Seagram buys Polygram from Matsushita rival Philips for US$10.4bn

1998 Vivendi sells 6.5% stake in Telewest for £200m

1999 Seagram sells Mumm, Perrier-Jouët and Tropicana for US$4bn

1999 Foster's buys Seagram Australia

1999 Vivendi sells Havas' outdoor advertising operations to J C Decaux of France for £652m

1999 buys 15% of Canal+ from Compagnie Financiere Richemont

1999 Vivendi and Canal+ buy 20% of Pathé

1999 sells property and construction divisions

Vivendi buys Seagram

2000 Vivendi buys Seagram for US$34bn, becomes Vivendi Universal