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FRENCH FRIED
Turmoil Continues at Vivendi as Messier
Sacks Lescure
Embattled Vivendi Universal Chairman Jean-Marie Messier has fired Canal Plus Group CEO Pierre Lescure and replaced him with Xavier Couture, an executive with TFI, France's leading commercial network.

According to Daily Variety, Messier asked Lescure to resign Tuesday morning, but Lescure refused, prompting the VU chief to issue a public statement announcing Lescure’s exit, effective April 24.

It was also reported that the entire staff of Canal Plus headed to the ground floor of Canal Plus headquarters in Paris to protest Lescure’s firing.

The Lescure move follows the April 12 exit of Canal Plus COO Denis Olivennes. Olivennes reportedly departed in protest against Messier’s leadership.

Variety quotes Messier as saying: "I am personally sorry to see Pierre Lescure go. Denis Olivennes reaped the consequences of the management problems at Canal Plus, and now Pierre Lescure has reaped those consequences too."

In a melodramatic twist to the Vivendi soap opera that has roiled markets and riveted France for weeks, Lescure—a founder of Canal Plus and a mythical figure in French TV and cinema—went live on the station to slam Messier, according to the Financial Times.

Canal Plus unions and staff took over the station's programming in front of a studio audience gathered to watch a daily satirical news show, clapping and cheering as Lescure fought back tears and blew farewell kisses.

In the most stinging rebuke, the writer of the hugely popular satirical puppet show Les Guignols, Bruno Gaccio, used Messier's own TV cameras to turn Vivendi's chairman and chief executive into a figure of fun, the paper said.

"Messier gave the management 24 months to turn round the station's finances and fired them one month later. How can we trust a guy who can't even count up to 24?" Moments later, station managers pulled the plug and switched to the weather forecast.

To say 2002 has been rough for Messier is an understatement. Vivendi Universal's stock price has plummeted 40% this year, prompting the executive to recommend that the Vivendi board not give him any stock options this year unless the stock reaches $52.81 (60 euros) by September. As of noon (PST) Tuesday, the stock was trading at $35.09, up 4.35% for the day.

Messier has come under strong attack from investors for the steep drop in the company’s stock, which many claim results from an autocratic leadership style and a lack of coherent strategy from the CEO.

According to Vivendi’s preliminary annual report, Messier received $2.1 million after taxes and including perks in 2001. He also owns 592,810 shares of Vivendi stock.

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