Messier, Bronfman to appeal Vivendi verdicts

Fri Jan 21, 2011 1:56pm EST
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PARIS (Reuters) - Former Vivendi chief executive Jean-Marie Messier will appeal after being found guilty on Friday of embezzlement and divulging misleading information as head of Europe's biggest entertainment company.

Fellow defendant Edgar Bronfman Jr, a Canadian billionaire and chief executive of Warner Music Group who was vice chairman of Vivendi's board at the time, is also to appeal against his verdict, which came with a 15-month suspended sentence and 5 million euro ($6.8 million) fine for insider trading.

"I always managed this group with integrity, and that is why this sentence is deeply unfair. I want to defend not only my honor but I have to set the record straight," Messier said in a written statement.

The court handed a three-year suspended sentence to Messier, a flamboyant business leader who led Vivendi a decade ago during the heady days of the Internet bubble and became a symbol of corporate hubris when he nearly bankrupted the former utilities group with a massive acquisition spree.

Messier, 54, who escaped a charge of manipulating share prices, was also fined 150,000 euros ($203,000).

His lawyer, Pierre Haik, said Messier would appeal against the verdict, which he said was "incomprehensible and goes against the law." Bronfman's lawyer also said he would appeal.

Messier's former lieutenant and Vivendi's former chief financial officer Guillaume Hannezo was given a 15-month suspended sentence, and another ex-Vivendi executive Eric Licoys was handed a six-month suspended sentence.

Didier Cornardeau, who represented small shareholders in the trial, welcomed the court's ruling.

"Business leaders who commit crimes must be heavily sanctioned. Mr Messier, who is sentenced today, has destroyed Vivendi Universal," he said.   Continued...