Messier in Police Custody for Securities Fraud Probe

22 June 2004

Known to the French press in his glory days as J6M (Jean-Marie Messier, Moi Meme Maitre du Monde), the once unstoppable dealmaker and chairman/ceo of Vivendi Universal, is now languishing in custody of the French police.

Messier (47) was detained Monday by the French fraud squad in connection with its inquiries into allegations of securities chicanery. The former media mogul, once seen by the French as a latterday Jeanne d' Arc repelling the US global media hordes, could spend up to forty-eight hours in detention while being grilled by the gendarmerie.

In October 2002 French investigators launched an investigation into the affairs of Vivendi shortly after Messier's ousting, when the group teetered on the edge of bankruptcy. Shortly after this, a group of small shareholders filed a suit alleging that Vivendi had published false and misleading statements in 2001 and 2002.

The investigation centres on alleged share price manipulation generated by large-scale share buybacks. Also suspicions of insider trading by Messier and other directors, who encashed their stock options before a rescue €3.3bn share placement in January 2002.

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