Messier Survives Confidence Vote as Ally Quits Vivendi Board

26 June 2002

Jean-Marie Messier, chairman and ceo of ailing media conglomerate Vivendi Universal, survived by a “solid majority” Tuesday’s vote of confidence by the group board in his leadership.

But there was nevertheless blood on the carpet.

On the evening prior to the Paris board meeting, Bernard Arnault, chairman of luxury-goods conglomerate LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, quit as a Vivendi director. His abrupt departure is said to have been driven by frustration at Messier's failure to involve the board in key decisions – especially following the crash in Vivendi's stock price.

Insiders say the resignation will hit Messier where it hurts, the more so as Arnault - one of the most respected business figures in Europe - has been a personal friend and longstanding supporter. He also commanded considerable influence with the group’s North American directors.

But the confidence vote has not silenced Messier’s critics.

“The board resignations are accumulating. It confirms our suspicion that there's something wrong in the corporate governance of this company,” opined Colette Neuville, a French shareholder activist and instigator of a court case to appoint an independent expert to audit the company's corporate-governance methods.

Analyst Michael Nathanson of Sanford C Bernstein & Co concurred: “At this point, people feel so burned by this company that they don't trust Messier anymore.”

Data sourced from: The Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff