Can Mannesmann Wriggle Away?

CEO Esser may be poised to do a deal to foil Vodafone

The clock is ticking for Europe's most embattled CEO, Mannesmann boss Klaus Esser. He has just a few weeks left to repel a $134.5 billion hostile takeover bid by Vodafone AirTouch PLC. But Esser, fresh from his own $46 billion telecom takeover spree in 1999, may yet try one more big deal that could keep him independent or hike the price of a takeover to an even richer level. And that deal would involve another high-stakes player in Europe's telecom industry--Jean-Marie Messier, chief of French conglomerate Vivendi.

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