Vivendi Universal topper Jean-Marie Messier Thursday dished up the theme of the conglomerate as a corporate United Nations.
“We believe in cultural diversity,” Messier declared in a luncheon address to the Town Hall Los Angeles civic group. “We touch hearts and minds all around the world, not only the U.S. We don’t take this responsibility lightly (and) have a responsibility to pay respect to every single culture around the world.”
Universal Studios’ Paris-based parent is “five to 10 years ahead of any other company in understanding cultural diversity,” the casually attired exec asserted.
Messier said he moved his family to New York Sept. 2 to split the geographical distance between corporate headquarters in France and the L.A. studio. “We are a world leader — not U.S., not European,” he stressed.
Still, political pundit Arianna Huffington — a fixture at Town Hall events — complimented his “lovely French accent” during a Q&A exchange, and Messier quipped, “I am committed to not losing it.”
Playing to the local civil group –which packed 600 people into a Beverly Hilton ballroom in Beverly Hills — the Vivendi U boss said he hopes someday to be viewed as “a citizen of L.A., if it is taken as a sign of my (local) commitment.” But he noted the conglom was only a “1-year-old baby” following Vivendi’s acquisition of U and Canal Plus last year.
Another questioner sought the CEO’s opinions on digital piracy.
“You will always find Vivendi Universal in the forefront of the struggle for intellectual property rights,” he responded.
Messier noted the conglom is involved in the PressPlay digital-music venture and told a story about discovering his son had been pirating songs from the Internet. “He told me, ‘Look, Dad, I can assure you I’m downloading only non-Universal music,’ ” he said.
The story drew guffaws and dovetailed conveniently with the portion of his wide-ranging remarks in which Messier played head Vivendi U pitchman. But though the Town Hall crowd — drawn from a cross section of professional fields — seemed interested in the colorful French exec, there seemed an occasional disconnect.
Messier said an upcoming Eminem release will enjoy good marketing synergy with the rapper’s film bow, “Eight Mile,” which he described as a “fabulous movie of the summer relating the life of Eminem.” Delivered earnestly, the line somehow still drew aud chuckles.
A more intentional laugh line played off widespread speculation that Messier and newly tapped entertainment chief Barry Diller will clash. “I was shocked to hear questions about how to manage Barry Diller,” he deadpanned.
Then he added, more soberly: “I don’t care about ego — I care about talents. Barry is a very strong man, (and) it’s better to have him inside Vivendi Universal than outside. It’s as simple as that.”
Messier said conglom isn’t likely to pursue any further major acquisitions not already afoot this year.