Messier tosses coin tale

Vivendi topper details salary in upcoming book

PARIS — Vivendi topper Jean-Marie Messier is an elegant, sophisticated Frenchman who is thumbing his nose at one of his country’s longest-standing traditions — the almost obligatory aura of mystery that usually surrounds the salaries of France’s top executives.

In “Should We Be Afraid of the New Economy?” a book to be published next week by Hachette, Messier tells all.

“My income has a fixed and a variable side,” he is reported to have written in the 240-page autobiography. He says he earned 15 million francs ($2.1 million) in 1998 and $2.9 million in 1999 — meaning that he cleared $700,000 in 1998 and $930,000 in 1999.

Despite Messier’s openness, the local press is skeptical. Daily Liberation notes that in 1994 when Messier went to work at Vivendi, then called la Compagnie generale des eaux, he reportedly held out for a monthly income of 1 million francs (about $135,000 at today’s rate of exchange). The paper says that on this basis Messier probably clears an income in a league with France’s top soccer players, closer to $1.7 million.

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