Ex-Vivendi boss Messier gets suspended sentence in France

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A French court on Friday handed the ex-boss of media giant Vivendi Universal, Jean-Marie Messier, a three-year suspended jail term over a scandal that nearly brought down the group in 2002.

Messier received the suspended term and a fine of 150,000 euros ($200,000) on charges including embezzlement after he gave himself a 20-million-euro pay-off when he left the group in 2002.

The judges also convicted him of misleading investors about the group's financial health but cleared him of charges of manipulating the company's shares.

Messier was forced out as chief executive and chairman of Vivendi in July 2002 after he gave upbeat reports of the firm's finances when it was actually 35 billion euros in debt after buying up companies such as Universal film studios.

In January 2010, a New York jury ruled that Vivendi recklessly misled investors about the company's finances but Messier himself was cleared in that case.

© 2011 AFP

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