Move to save $138 mil; NY to become representative office

PARIS — Vivendi Universal will ax 152 staffers in its Paris headquarters as topper Jean-Rene Fourtou begins his makeover of the media conglom’s image from glitzy and extravagant operation to no-nonsense and all-business.

The job cuts, announced Thursday, comprise almost half of the 327 employees in Paris and will help Viv U save 140 million euros ($138 million) on an annual budget of $308 million, the company said.

How high in the ranks the job cuts will go is unknown and it is possible that more than 152 will be let go. The company said that employees at other headquarter sites also will be reduced.

Viv U also said it will “concentrate management tasks” in Paris, while New York will become a “representative office,” primarily handling the company’s North American activities.

The move away from New York is also a move away from the strategy and vision of ousted topper Jean-Marie Messier, who in essence made Gotham a rival nerve center to the company’s long-standing Paris HQ.

Messier made waves and attracted much negative publicity here when he listed the media company on the New York Stock Exchange, moved his family into a luxury apartment in Gotham and declared France’s “cultural exception” dead.

Viv U also said that it will redefine and refocus the headquarter tasks on holding company activities, i.e., put an end to the Messier model of a glamorous and creative flagship and return to the daily corporate work of a traditional business.

The company said that aside from laying off staff, savings will come from cutbacks in external services.

Meanwhile, Messier, who still lives in New York, is planning to start his own hedge fund, according to a French press report. The fund, called Messier Partners, at the moment comprises him and his secretary, the Gallic daily Liberation reported.

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