Great Expectations

EVAN KAFKA/FORTUNE

Middelhoff helped create a global media company, but forgot home truths

Until recently, calling a european executive Anglo-Saxon was considered a compliment. It meant the manager had a global outlook, was focused on the bottom line and gave top priority to keeping shareholders happy. Lately, however, the term has become an insult, suggesting an egotistical empire builder more interested in expanding the company through acquisitions than in the health of the core business.

The first to come to grief over his Anglo-Saxon ambitions was Jean-Marie Messier, a Frenchman equally at home in New York as in Paris. Messier was forced out as chief executive of entertainment giant Vivendi Universal last...

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