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Spotlight

Jean-Marie Messier

“The man behind one of the biggest corporate disasters of our era” is staging a comeback, said Jo Johnson in the Financial Times. During the 1990s, Jean-Marie Messier spent $100 billion in his quest to build Vivendi Universal from a sleepy water utility into a “sprawling media empire” and “dethrone Rupert Murdoch.” But in 2002 the company imploded under the weight of mounting debt, massive losses, and creative bookkeeping, and Messier became a target of “hysterical opprobrium and vilification.”

Now he’s back on the public stage with a new book about the global financial crisis. Although the book is “readable and engaging,” his proposed remedies are hardly original. Most amusing is his obsession with “bankers’ excessive and poorly structured pay.” Some readers might recall that in 2002, after Vivendi “notched up the largest losses in French corporate history,” Messier sought a $40 million bonus. Well, he “never lacked nerve.”

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