The Rise and Fall of Vivendi Universal's Jean Marie Messier

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Case Details:

Case Code : LDEN015
Case Length : 11 Pages
Period : 1996-2002
Pub Date : 2003
Teaching Note :Not Available
Organization : Vivendi Universal
Industry : Media and Entertainment Countries : France

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This case study was compiled from published sources, and is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. It is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Nor is it a primary information source.

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Background Note

Born in 1956, in Greenbole, France, Messier was the eldest son of an accountant. Although Messier was born into a middle class family, he swiftly rose to great heights of success and fame.

Even in his childhood, Messier was known for his shrewdness and intelligence in handling situations. In 1976, Messier entered one of the top business schools in France, Ecole Polytechnique, and established a reputation for himself at the institute.3 In 1980, after graduation, he joined the prestigious Ecole Nationale d'Administration (ENA). After graduating form ENA (1982), Messier was selected to the post of 'Inspector of Finances' for the French ministry of Economy and Finance by the French government.

 His good performance at the post gave an upward swing to his carrier. In 1986, Messier became the chief advisor of Edouard Balladur, the Minister of Economy, Finance and Privatization. Messier worked for the French government for the next three years. During his tenure, he earned the reputation of being the key architect of France's privatization program and of being a 'financial wiz kid.'

In 1989, Messier left his job at the French government to join Lazard Freres, France's well-known investment bank, and became the youngest investment partner in the bank's history.

Here again, Messier became famous for launching one of Europe's first LBO4 (Leveraged Buyout) funds. He also became well known for his ability to 'dissect a company financially.' After a five-year stint as an investment banker, in 1994, Messier joined Compagnie Générale des Eaux (CGE), a water and utilities company, as its CEO. At that time, CGE was on the verge of bankruptcy and needed strong financial management to correct its messy financial condition.

Excerpts >>

3]  Established in 1945, ENA was one of France's leading business and administration training institutes. It provided basic training to senior officials working in the French public sector. Apart from training senior officials, ENA also conducted research in the field of administrative sciences. The French President Jacques Chirac as well as the former French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin had graduated from ENA.

4]  LBO involves the acquisition of a company using borrowed money (through bonds/loans). The acquiring company uses its own assets to cover for the loan in assumption that the future cash flows will cover the loan payments.


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