PARIS (Reuters) – Jean-Marie Messier, who once celebrated a transatlantic mega-merger with a sound-and-light show in a courtyard of the Louvre, awoke on Tuesday in a Paris police cell.
The man who once dubbed himself J6M — “Jean Marie-Messier, me myself master of the world” — and transformed a dowdy water utility into a media empire at a cost of $50 billion, turned himself over to police on Monday as they carry out an insider trading probe.
Messier was set to spend a second night in a fraud squad cell on Tuesday, a far cry from the $18 million New York loft he lived in as Vivendi chief.
He is being questioned in connection with the company’s 1.7 billion euro ($2.06 billion) purchase of shares in Vivendi Universal, the media giant he forged with Hollywood’s Universal Studios at its heart, shortly before announcing company results.
Armed with a thick wad of documents to shore up his defense, the fallen business idol will also be questioned about the accuracy of Vivendi’s financial communications and the way it booked the profits of three partly-owned telecoms firms.
His lawyer said on Monday the police’s questioning was a procedural step and that Messier himself had asked in March to be investigated to get the chance to explain his actions.
The humiliation of Messier, 48, a profligate dealmaker who also presided over the then-biggest loss in French corporate history, reads like a morality tale of the consequences of overarching ambition.
Gallic pride also took a blow with his demise. Feted as a French business crusader, he took on the United States on its home ground and won, planting the tricolor in Hollywood.
But his hubris later became his undoing.
His extravagant embrace of all things American, symbolized by his swanky Park Avenue apartment, irked France’s discreet business class, while he alienated French cultural commissars by sacking Pierre Lescure, head of film studios Canal Plus.0