Vivendi Universal chief executive Jean-René Fourtou told investors on Wednesday there would be no severance payoff, lavish or meagre, for his deposed predecessor the high profile shopaholic Jean-Marie Messier.

The latter, ousted by intensive investor pressure in July [WAMN: 03-Jul-02], was reportedly set to receive around €18 million ($17.61m; £11.29m). But, said Fourtou: “The board has decided to follow my advice and pay Messier nothing. We paid him his US salary in July by mistake and have asked him to return the money.”

Fourtou also announced that Vivendi plans to raise €12 billion from asset disposals over the next eighteen months, at the same time confirming the sale of its mega-lossmaking Italian pay-TV unit Telepiù to News Corporation for about €850m [WAMN: 25-Sep-02].

In a burst of candour, Fourtou – whose background is in finance and pharmaceuticals – also admitted he had “next to zero credibility” as the helmsman of the group’s US studios, theme parks and cable TV business Vivendi Universal Entertainment. He therefore intends to explore extending the stakes of minority shareholder Barry Diller and his USA Interactive group who between them own 6.9% of the Vivendi-controlled unit.

Switching from selling to buying mode, Fourtou is trying to raise some €3bn to buy British Telecom’s 26% stake in Cegetel, currently sought by Vodafone. This would allow Vivendi, which already owns 44% of the business, to benefit from Cegetel’s robust cash flows.

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