Messier Reveals Incognito Heir Presumptive to Vivendi Throne

04 January 2002

Anxious to reassure fellow citizens that his commercial grand passion with the USA has not corrupted his innate Gallicism, Vivendi Universal chairman Jean-Marie Messier revealed to a French radio station on Thursday that he has already chosen his eventual successor: a certified tricolor Frenchman!

Messier (45) who, to the chagrin of his compatriots, in September transported the Court of Vivendi out of Paris and into New York, is facing a rising tide of criticism that his international media empire has become too Americanized – even prompting hardline rightwing politico Bruno Megret to accuse the tycoon of “betraying his country”.

Messier, no slouch at counter-PR, immediately returned to France and yesterday graced radio station France Inter with an interview. Should anything happen to him, he proclaimed, his succession plans were well and truly laid.

“I could be hit by a bus coming out of your studio," he told an awed interviewer. Then, perhaps influenced by the shade of Dumas père, Messier piled on the melodrama: “There is somewhere in a safe a recommendation for my board in the event that I ever get hit by that bus ... I'll tell you a secret: In the envelope, the recommendation is for a French successor.”

But in best Dumas cliffhanger style, the identity of the heir presumptive remains unrevealed, doomed henceforth to be known only as The Man in the Ironic Mask.

Dissolve back to the 21st century. In an article appearing today (Friday) in French daily newspaper Le Figaro, Messier ruefully reflects: “It’s as if every advance we make in the US must ipso facto reflect a retreat from France.”

He then hypes the upcoming launch in September of a new Vivendi-owned European movie channel that will air stateside via EchoStar’s TV platform – a quid pro quo for Vivendi’s $1.5 billion (E1.7bn) equity investment in the satellite operator. “I'm certain that we will know how to take advantage of it to export the ‘French touch’ to the US,” Messier ripostes.

The mogul won no friends in his own country with his seeming criticism on December 17 of a clause in the free-trade agreement between the US and the European Union which allows France and other EU countries to impose quotas on American films, TV shows and music – thus protecting the Gates of European Culture from the Barbarians of Creeping Americanization.

“The Franco-French cultural exception is dead,” Messier opined, to the fury of his compatriots, spurring French education minister Jack Lang to declare: “We won't let ourselves be intimidated by a private company. Now more than ever, a country must have control of its intellectual and creative capital.”

News source: Wall Street Journal