Vivendi Universal’s weird transition from a French water company to a media conglomerate is — astoundingly enough — failing to hold together. Chairman Jean-Marie Messier has been forced to quit, the stock has taken a 42% dive (and pulled down other French stocks with it) and the company is now being looked into for questionable accounting practices. Messier is trying for a €20 million severance package for his excellent work.
Universal Studios and Universal Music are expected to be able to continue present operations in the event of a breakup of Vivendi Universal — the market capitalisation of the group currently being 30% below its breakup value. Universal’s future as a handy source of cash in the event of no breakup is another question.
Vivendi Universal properties include Vivendi Environnement (the water company, which is actually doing better than the rest of the group), Universal Studios, Universal Music Group, Cegetel (a phone company), Canal Plus (pay TV), Houghton Mifflin (educational publishing) — and Vizzavi (an Internet portal joint venture with Vodafone), which has recently been valued at … zero.