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Vivendi chief Messier resigns

Messier is reported to have walked away with $20 million  

PARIS, France -- Vivendi boss Jean-Marie Messier has resigned from the troubled company as executives begin attempts to salvage the giant.

The man chosen by Messier's former allies to restore Vivendi Universal's reputation is Jean-Rene Fourtou, the 63-year-old Vice Chairman of pharmaceutical giant Aventis' supervisory board.

One of his first tasks is expected to involve a restructuring plan to sell assets and reduce the company's $11 billion debt and boost investor confidence.

Messier was reported to have walked away with a $20 million compensation package as well as use of a New York apartment until the end of the year, worth an estimated $17.5 million.

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The package amounts to more than three times Messier's combined salary and bonus last year, but the executive may need the money to pay off loans he has taken to buy stock, the Wall Street Journal said.

Messier's departure has been at the centre of speculation in the past week especially after reports that he had agreed to resign.

The Vivendi Universal stock has dived more than 70 percent this year, partly on the back of results in March which showed a 2001 non-cash loss of 13.6 billion euros ($11.8 billion) even though earnings before taxes for its core media group jumped 34 percent.

The credit rating agency Moody's cut the company's debt rating to junk bond status, triggering millions of euros in extra interest payments.

The situation worsened on Tuesday when billions of euros were wiped off its market value after French newspaper Le Monde said the media conglomerate attempted to massage its 2001 accounts related to its sale of its stake in British pay television operator British Sky Broadcasting. (Full Story)

The 45-year-old embattled CEO faced calls to resign after racking up a huge debt following a $100 billion spending spree in an attempt to transform the utilities company into a media and entertainment monster to rival the likes of AOL Time Warner, which owns CNN.

Messier's acquisitions included a $30 billion purchase of USA Networks, a cable and entertainment company run by Hollywood mogul Barry Diller.


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