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Lady Gaga Could Save a French Tycoon’s Really Lousy Year

A sale of Universal would net billions for Vivendi and its No. 1 shareholder, Vincent Bolloré.

Lady Gaga at the Grammy Awards. 

Lady Gaga at the Grammy Awards. 

Photographer: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images
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The past year has been unusually harsh for French billionaire Vincent Bolloré. The former chairman of media giant Vivendi SA was implicated in a bribery scandal in Africa, his electric car-sharing program in Paris shut down, and he’s losing a battle for control of Telecom Italia—the troubled carrier at the heart of his plan to create a southern European entertainment juggernaut. He dodged a bullet at Vivendi’s annual meeting on April 15, after investors narrowly approved a measure that can allow his group to increase control over the company.

Despite the setbacks, help is on the way—from Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, and U2. Vivendi is planning to sell a 49 percent stake in Universal Music Group, the world’s biggest recording house. The sale could bring in more than $15 billion for Vivendi and send its stock soaring, analysts say—a payout that would deliver billions to Bolloré’s holding company, Vivendi’s No. 1 stockholder.