Turned stodgy, debt-ridden French utility group into Net-focused media and telecom powerhouse.
Deliver attention-grabbing content for mobile and TV Web devices now being introduced in Europe--a tough job in a multicultural and multilingual environment.
When French utility and communications group Vivendi (VVDIY) moved last year to a prestigious address near the Arc de Triomphe, Chief Executive Jean-Marie Messier turned the building's lobby into a cybercafe. Now, an average of 5,000 people a week drop by to sip coffee and tap away at 70 computers. ''Our headquarters is a mirror of our ambition,'' Messier says.
In Europe's sprint from the Old to New Economy, no one is running faster than the 43-year-old Messier. His goal: to transform a former water company into the Continent's version of America Online-Time Warner (AOL). Messier owns a treasure trove of potential cyber-content in Vivendi subsidiaries Canal+, European's largest pay-TV operator, and Havas, a leading software publisher. In January, Messier teamed up with mobile-telephone giant Vodafone AirTouch PLC (VOD) to provide Web access by cell phone.
Messier himself straddles France's ancien and nouveau regimes. After taking over Vivendi four years ago, he shed unprofitable holdings and refocused on communications and utilities. No one ever thought this hard-charging CEO would be satisfied just running a cybercafe.