Former chairman/ceo of Vivendi Universal, Jean-Marie Messier, on Wednesday saw the odds lengthen against his collecting the €20.6 million ($23.78m; £14.38m) severance pay-off awarded him last month by the New York-based American Arbitration Association [WAMN: 01-Jul-03].

But the prospect of laying hands on his glittering reward for bringing the Paris-headquartered global media giant to the brink of bankruptcy, almost certainly sank in the Seine yesterday after the Commission des Opérations de Bourse (the French stock market regulator) intervened on behalf of shareholders.

At the request of the COB, the Paris high court ordered Vivendi Universal to freeze payment of the Messier moolah until it receives shareholder approval. Even Messier, an eternal optimist, will have little hope that shareholders will approve his golden parachute if voted upon at the annual meeting next April.

Commented Vivendi after the court’s ruling: “This decision has encouraged [us] to continue to take all appropriate actions to oppose a payment that it considers illegitimate. “ Meantime, the COB is on the verge of completing its twelve-month investigation into Messier’s high-rolling management style.

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