The Old Guard's Revenge

FRANCOIS MORI/AP

A helmeted bodyguard escorts Messier and Couture

Had French business titan Jean-Marie Messier been a footballer, he might not be suffering disgrace and joblessness today. Last month, after France's World Cup humiliation, President Jacques Chirac advised disgruntled fans against turning on their beloved Bleus — warning "we mustn't burn today what we considered beautiful yesterday." Messier wasn't so lucky. Though once regarded as a national hero for turning a sleepy French water company into the world's second-largest media group, Vivendi Universal, Messier saw his corporate reign come to an ignoble end last week as the stock market and the French media, business and cultural élite — and even...

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