Messier Mobbed on CSA Visit to Explain Lescure Firing

19 April 2002

Only in France could infighting between two media magnates result in the mobbing of the perceived villain on the grounds of culture.

Incensed at Jean-Marie Messier, chief executive of Vivendi Universal, over his firing of popular Canal Plus chief executive Pierre Lescure [WAMN: 17-Apr-02], an angry crowd awaited his arrival Thursday at the doors of the CSA – the nation’s TV regulatory body – which had demanded his assurance that Canal Plus’ charter would continue to be honoured.

Messier told the CSA that “Canal Plus is no longer, today, an economic success and must become one again.” He revealed that the debt crippled pay-TV operation owed €5 billion ($4.45bn; £3.08bn ) and currently nurses a loss of €700m.The recent changes in senior management (which also included the abrupt resignation of chief operating officer Denis Olivennes) were “changes of men, not objectives... not commitments”.

Separately, Vivendi announced it had completed the €1.2bn sale of its business and health publishing division to a consortium of venture capital groups. The new owners are Cinven, Carlyle, Apax Partners and Vivendi, which has retained a 25% holding.

And in yet another intriguing twist to the ongoing saga, it emerged Thursday that leading French corporate raider, Vincent Bolloré, has started to build a stake in Vivendi and already commands just under 0.5% per cent of its equity.

Bolloré, however, boasts a war chest of €1bn which informed onlookers believe could allow him to acquire around 2.4% of Vivendi’s stock, sufficient to join the top table among the group’s investors.

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