Viv U battles Messier pact

Vice chairman: 'The contract terms were repugnant'

Even while Viv U works toward the disposal of its Hollywood entertainment assets, the ghost of the man who put all the pieces together continues to haunt the French conglom.

The Vivendi board vowed Tuesday it would examine all means at its disposal to annul the severance contract of former chairman-CEO Jean Marie Messier.

A New York tribunal Monday had ruled the ousted exec was entitled to a $23.7 million settlement according to the terms of a severance pact signed on the eve of his departure.

Vivendi’s new management says the contract did not receive the board’s approval.

However, according to a report in Le Monde, vice chairman Edgar Bronfman Jr. (now a bidder for VUE) did in fact sign off on the contract, along with Marc Vienot, a fellow board member at the time.

A U.S. termination agreement was drawn up shortly before his ouster by Viv U’s former managing director Eric Licoy and the VP in charge of the audit committee, Vienot.

And the amount of money in question, $23.7 million, corresponds to the amount Bronfman himself received when he left in December of 2001 as group operational VP.

Bronfman at the time apparently said that while he found the contract terms “repugnant,” he nevertheless signed the deal, because it was more important to get Messier out for the sake of the company.

But the board refused to rubber-stamp the contract. According to the company, that invalidates the agreement under French law.

Vivendi is also seeking to have Messier pay back $2 million it believes it’s owed from salary plus rent on his New York apartment that was paid after his departure.

News of the pact’s existence has sparked indignation in France, especially among small shareholders who blame the high-spending Messier for destroying the value of the conglom.

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