In the latest round in the payoff battle between former master dealmaker Jean-Marie Messier and Vivendi Universal, the Paris-headquartered media giant of which he was once chairman and chief executive, the latter has won approval from a French court to seek damages from Messier and his former deputy Eric Licoys.

The verdict also freezes Messier’s disputed severance payment of €20.5 million ($23.04m; £14.42m), due after his ousting last summer, he claims. This munificent handout, insists Messier, is his entitlement under the terms of his US contract – a claim recently upheld by the New York-based American Arbitration Association [WAMN: 01-Jul-03].

However, the French court’s decision also bolsters the ruling of French stock market regulator, the Commission des Opérations de Bourse, which intervened in the affair last month on behalf of shareholders.

Messier, once the all-powerful boss of Vivendi, powered the French utilities group into number two position in the global media stakes in a series of audacious acquisitions and mergers.

Known to the French press as J6M (Jean-Marie Messier, Moi Meme Maitre du Monde), he was unceremoniously fired last summer after the group was confronted by imminent collapse under the weight of the debt burden accrued by J6M's shopping spree.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff