Riot police are not normally put on standby when companies hold annual shareholder meetings. Such, however, are the depths to which Vivendi Universal boss Jean-Marie Messier’s popularity has sunk.
Messier faced 5,000 of his company’s investors in Paris on Wednesday, a large number of whom demanded he step down. The grilling inside the meeting was matched by an angry mob outside, which Messier avoided by going through the back door.
The Vivendi boss faces opposition on several fronts: shareholders are concerned at the company’s performance, its tumbling stock price and Messier’s proposed executive share option scheme, which they rejected; staff are still fuming at the sacking of Canal Plus boss Pierre Lescure; while the French establishment accuses him of selling French culture down the river.
The highly charged atmosphere at the meeting was demonstrated when Messier argued that “Our strategy is showing its impact but not in our share price.
“The only answer is…” he began, only for one angry shareholder to cry “resignation” – a response that received considerably more applause than Messier’s own version, “transparency”.
However, he showed no signs of moving. “I have personally, I would say involuntarily and clumsily, contributed to a certain incomprehension by an excessive and precipitate communication,” he continued. “I have understood. I will correct this.”
In an attempt to win the crowd, Messier produced unaudited Q1 results that show a 12% revenue rise to €7.1bn (£4.4bn; $6.4bn) and a 27% increase in operating profits to €436m. Whether it is enough for the sansculottes remains to be seen.
Data sourced from: Financial Times; MediaGuardian.co.uk; The Times (London); additional content by WARC staff