Former Vivendi boss Messierquestioned in Paris

21st June 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, June 21 (AFP) - The legal net has tightened around former Vivendi Universal head Jean-Marie Messier, detained by police Monday as part of a probe into possible financial wrongdoing at the media giant during his turbulent tenure.

PARIS, June 21 (AFP) - The legal net has tightened around former Vivendi Universal head Jean-Marie Messier, detained by police Monday as part of a probe into possible financial wrongdoing at the media giant during his turbulent tenure.

Messier was summoned by investigators for questioning at the headquarters of the French financial police in Paris.

His lawyer Olivier Metzner said in a statement: "Mr. Messier went to this hearing with a certain number of documents he believes may help provide detailed and precise responses to investigators' questions.

"This hearing, a normal step in the ongoing process, comes within the framework of the demand made by Mr. Messier himself ... to be placed under investigation in order to explain his position and better defend his former colleagues."

For the past several weeks judges Henri Pons and Rene Cros have been looking into the activities of Vivendi's financial management team in 2001-2002.

The group's share price posted gains Monday on positive broker comments by Lehman Brothers, with one Paris dealer saying Messier's detention was not considered pertinent.

Three former Vivendi officials, including former financial director Guillaume Hannezo, had already been placed under judicial investigation, prompting Messier to insist that he too be included in the probe.

Hannezo faces charges of insider trading, involvement in stock market manipulation and disseminating false information in connection with the sale of Vivendi shares in December 2001 just before a fall in their prices.

The chairman of Deutsche Equities, Philippe Guez, is under investigation as well.
Messier is now expected to be interrogated ahead of an appearance before judges Pons and Cros, and could face detention of up to 48 hours.

On March 29, Messier had said: "I claim responsibility, as group president at the time, for the decision, in the shareholders' interest, to buy back shares, conforming to the position of the SEC (US Securities and Exchange Commission)."

Messier was ousted as Vivendi chairman in July 2002 after his attempts to turn the former French water utility into a global entertainment empire collapsed, leaving it with crippling debts.

Vivendi became an international media giant under Messier, but as the high-tech bubble began to burst it became clear the group was nothing more than a sprawling conglomerate with an unsustainable debt load acquired through takeovers.

The price of Vivendi shares plunged as it came close to collapse. Messier was sacked and the group has spent the last 18 months restructuring and selling assets to reduce debt.

On Monday, Vivendi Universal shares were up 1.80 percent at EUR 22.09 on the Paris stock exhange early Monday in response to positive comments on its prospects by US brokers Lehman Brothers.

The CAC 40 index had gained 0.07 percent overall.

One Paris dealer said the market was only interested in Messier's successor, Jean-Rene Fourtou, and didn't care what happened to the flamboyant former Vivendi chairman.
"Now that there is Fourtou, we are no longer interested in all that," the trader said.


© AFP


Subject: French news

0 Comments To This Article