It was with some pride that Vivendi Universal chief Jean Marie Messier last week announced the conglom’s acquisition of the Olympia, one of Paris’ most hallowed music venues (Edith Piaf and Yves Montand trod its boards), promising that as its new owner, Viv U would be “in the service of French artists.”
At 11 million euros ($10.1 million), the Olympia wasn’t cheap. So it must have come as a shock to the CEO when members of France’s music scene started muttering that the Olympia probably would become a showcase for artists signed with Universal Music.
Messier faces similar cynicism from the film world, which is deeply skeptical about his intentions toward Gallic cinema. “He’s an outsider, he doesn’t have the background,” sniped one industry stalwart.
But no one can accuse Messier of being a stuffed shirt. At a recent ceremony awarding him the Legion d’Honneur, instead of receiving it from a government functionary, Messier chose trendy photographer Bettina Rheims, who also holds the medal.
More surprising, before hundreds of illustrious guests at the Centre Pompidou, the Viv U chief actually burst into song.
“The French establishment was agape — they just couldn’t get over it,” said one observer. “You have to admire him for that.”