Deal Ahoy!

VINCENT KESSLER/REUTERS

LOOKING AHEAD Fourtou may split his company in two

As head of Vivendi Universal, Jean-Marie Messier was the flamboyant king of spin — and in the end he flamed out. Now Messier's successor, Jean-René Fourtou, has a new title: the king of spinning off. In the 14 months since Fourtou took over the debt-laden French conglomerate (it has more than 6,000 individual holdings), he has been breaking down the empire piece by piece. Out went the cluster of Internet ventures that never lived up to their hype, the book and magazine publishers for which Messier overpaid, and the water utility that was once the company's core. Even its 18th century...

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