Justify €20m Golden Parachute, French Deputies Tell Messier

16 October 2003

Jean-Marie Messier, deposed former chairman/ceo of Vivendi Universal, had a rough ride Wednesday at the hands of enraged French politicians who demanded he justify his demand for a €20.6m ($24m) golden parachute following his ousting last year.

Messier, however, probably found his grilling at the hands of a parliamentary inquiry a relatively tranquil experience compared with the boardroom storms to which he is accustomed.

He gave as good as he got at the probe into executive remuneration and rejected calls to follow the example of compatriot businessman Pierre Bilger, former ceo of moribund engineering giant Alstom, who handed back his (comparatively) paltry €4.1m payoff.

But Messier has yet to lay hands on the Vivendi douceur, frozen by courts on both sides of the Atlantic at the behest both of the company and the US Stock Exchange Commission. The latter is currently conducting an inquiry into events at Vivendi during Messier's reign.

"I am fighting for this payment because it is legitimate and is based on a contract which I entered in good faith," Messier told his interrogators. "If we are still talking about it eighteen months later, it is because Vivendi Universal acted in bad faith." However, he granted that the amount of the claimed payout might appear 'shocking' outside the US.

Invited by the the committeeto explain his apparent hypocrisy in seeking a golden parachute after having promised never to do so, Messier riposted: "I entered into the negotiation at the request of the board. And yes, because I need the money. I have mortgaged my house in Paris to pay for lawyers' fees."

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff