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Inside Move: Gauls galled over Bronfman

Exec included in salaries, golden parachutes fraud suits

He may still be hoping to buy back Universal, but Edgar Bronfman Jr. is fast joining ousted chairman Jean-Marie Messier as a villain of the messy Vivendi Universal debacle in the eyes of riled French shareholders.

The Gallic shareholders’ association that’s filed a flurry of complaints against Viv U managers past and present last week tarred Bronfman and Messier with the same brush in fraud suits over their salaries and golden parachutes.

The suits were prompted by a Paris court’s decision to freeze the $23 million golden parachute that a U.S. tribunal ordered Viv U to pay to Messier, in line with an American termination contract signed the day before his ouster in July last year.

The French court ruled that the contract had not received the board’s approval, making it invalid.

Some $17 million allegedly paid to Bronfman when he quit as a Viv U veepee, and a similar sum when he gave up a consultancy role with the conglom, also broke French company law, the shareholders allege. They are also pursuing Viv U for alleged irregularities in its annual reporting.

“We want to know who was responsible for this parachute scam — whoever signed those contracts were going beyond their powers and they should be brought to justice,” the group’s president Didier Cornardeau said Thursday.

“That small shareholders can lose 80% of their savings while board members take millions is a disgrace.”

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