Spotlight On... Jean-Bernard Lévy, Vivendi chief executive
Say bonjour or, more correctly, au revoir to Jean-Bernard Lévy
Friday 29 June 2012
Why au revoir?
He is departing as chief executive of French media giant Vivendi, which owns the world's biggest record label, Universal Music, games firm Activision Blizzard and telecoms firms in France, Morocco and Brazil.
Sounds like a strange collection of businesses
Yes, it is a bit of a hodge-podge. Vivendi's shareholders are fed up with the €17.5bn (£14bn) company's performance under Mr Lévy, chief executive for seven years. Chairman Jean-René Fourtou has complained its shares are trading at a 40 per cent discount to the value of the separate assets.
Is a break-up on the cards for Vivendi?
Could be. "There are no taboos about how we will tackle this," says Mr Fourtou.
But is it Mr Levy's fault that Vivendi has such an unwieldly portfolio?
Not entirely. Predecessor Jean-Marie Messier went on an acquisition spree and left Vivendi on the brink of collapse with €19bn of debt.
How did Vivendi perform on Mr Levy's watch?
The shares are at nine-year lows, it paid a €765m penalty to Libery Media over a TV deal, and Mr Lévy was criticised for spending big to buy out Vodafone's stake in French telecom firm SFR last year.
Why hasn't a break-up been tried before?
There's the rub. Mr Lévy blocked Norwegian investor Alexander Vik's attempt to break up the company in 2006. Instead, Mr Levy continued with more acquistions.
Could Universal Music's takeover of rival label EMI be affected by Levy's exit?
Unlikely. Lucian Grainge, chief executive of Universal, is the driving force behind buying EMI's recorded music arm and is determined to pull it off.
What next for Mr Levy?
At 57, he is unlikely to reach for the pipe and slippers, with talk of a job in the US. He likes the limelight and writes his own blog: jeanbernardlevy.com.
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