Tuesday’s sacking of Canal Plus founder Pierre Lescure by Jean-Marie Messier, chief executive of Vivendi Universal [WAMN: 17-Apr-02], has not only stirred up the proverbial hornet’s nest – it has brought the equally proverbial Paris mob to the locked gates of the media mogul’s corporate headquarters.

Canal Plus employees baying for his head thronged the Vivendi bastion, sited nearby the Arc de Triomphe, chanting: “Messier, resign. Lescure for president.” Threatened one irate staffer: "Canal Plus is Pierre Lescure. If Pierre goes down, we'll take Messier down with him.”

Other revolutionaries rallying to the flag of Lescure include movie legend Catherine Deneuve, Hollywood’s Johnny Depp and film director David Lynch, the latter likening Messier and Vivendi to McDonald’s: “We're entering an era of standardisation and mass production of films,” he warned, while Lescure himself attacked “Jean-Marie's pathological egotism”.

Ignoring the baying of the mob, within the cloistered calm of Chateau Vivendi the board of Canal Plus, Vivendi's lossmaking pay-TV unit, was obediently endorsing Messier's decision to guillotine Lescure - seen by many of his compatriots as the white knight of Gaul, guarding the broadcaster from the forces of crass commercialism, the sole guarantor of the station’s independence and its commitment to the French film industry.

The markets, however, march to a different drum and Vivendi shares rose sharply following the firing. The money manipulators see the move as Messier’s imposition of corporate authority over a unit that since its acquisition in 2000 has defied his jurisdiction and judgment.

As to the popular support for Lescure, one onlooker remarked: “The problem is that by moving his de facto headquarters to New York, Messier has lost France. It's as fundamental as that.”

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