HITS Daily Double


It's All Protests, Inquisitions and Stock Price Spikes Following Firing
The drama following Jean-Marie Messier’s firing of Canal Plus chief executive Pierre Lescure continues.

While the Vivendi board was voting 3-2 to confirm Messier’s move, approximately 1,000 Lescure supporters blew horns, waved signs and threw eggs in a protest at Vivendi's headquarters near the Arc de Triomphe yesterday. The protesters reportedly chanted things such as "Messier is a mega-liar" while calling for his resignation, though it was in French, so it still sounded kinda sexy.

French politicians have entered the fray, defending the fine tradition of French films, and Jerry Lewis, since it’s three days before for round one of the French presidential elections. Oui, oui. At the behest of the Prime Minister, French film and television watchdog CSA is expected to hear from Lescure regarding his termination and talk with Messier to make sure that Vivendi Universal will continue its legal responsibility to finance and broadcast French films. The watchdog has even threatened to pull the network’s license, citing a law that allows for that move when substantial changes are made in the conditions under which the license was granted. The Vivendi board issued a statement which read: “Lescure's departure from Canal Plus' chairmanship is not personal—but motivated solely by economic considerations.”

The stock market seems to agree with the protestors, as Vivendi’s stock is up 58 cents to $35.72 in early morning trading, and is up for the fifth straight day, following last Friday’s resignation of Lescure’s deputy, Denis Olivennes, who also had run-ins with Messier. The share price could also be boosted by today’s announcement that the company is selling off its health and professional press divisions, raising 1.1 billion dollars, and helping to slash debts.Vivendi’s annual shareholder meeting is next Wednesday, and it should be a doozy.

That same day, a one-day strike by Canal Plus employees is planned, which will to take the pay-television network off the air for the day.

As the controversies swirl, reports circulate that Messier is under pressure from the board, with the New York Post reporting that Vivendi Universal Entertainment chief Barry Diller is being mentioned for Messier’s job, though not in the short-term, and mostly just around Barry Diller’s house. The New York Times, meanwhile, cites sources that say Messier’s job isn’t in jeopardy. The new New York Sun isn’t available online, so who knows what it says.