Vivendi: Going Hollywood

Breathless briefings, big headlines, grand visions--will the deal live up to all the hype?

The pieces are falling into place so fast that Jean-Marie Messier can hardly keep up. Leaping into his chauffeured Renault, the 43-year-old chairman and chief executive of French conglomerate Vivendi speeds to a Paris hotel to meet Edgar Bronfman Jr., chief executive of entertainment and liquor giant Seagram Co. The directors of Vivendi and French pay-TV company Canal+ have just voted to acquire Seagram, creating a $55 billion-a-year film, television, and telecom behemoth that Messier will head. Now, Seagram's board is about to sign off on the deal. Over the next 24 hours, Messier and Bronfman will hop the Concorde from Paris to New York and then to London for a whirlwind of press and investor briefings. "We've created a global leader," Messier says jubilantly, relaxing for a moment in the backseat as his car veers through the darkening Paris streets. And, adds the cherubic-looking boss, "we're going to make the Internet swing."

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