The French Rejection

Employees and investors turn against Messier's Vivendi media empire. Can Barry Diller help?

Jean-Marie Messier certainly made a splash when he moved to New York City from Paris last year. He settled into a $17.5 million Park Avenue duplex and started popping up at Metropolitan Opera soirees and in the gossip pages. Perhaps that's fitting, since Messier is a former water-company executive who became a man-about-town and a French business celebrity by turning Compagnie Generale des Eaux into a $51 billion global media giant, Vivendi Universal. Messier did it by orchestrating a series of stock-and-cash deals for American assets such as Universal Studios and USA Networks and merging them with a clutch of European...

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