Put an ambitious, cosmopolitan French banker in charge of a 148-year-old French water company, and you get ... a global-media megalith called Vivendi Universal, with telecom and cable assets in Europe; TV, movie and music studios on both sides of the Atlantic; and theme parks in the U.S. and Japan. Internet maven Messier, 44, may have racked up too much debt on his recent acquisition binge. But Vivendi posted a 30% jump in third-quarter cash flow, thanks much more to subscriptions than advertising. Just like in the water business.
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