Vivendi is one of the world’s least-known media and entertainment powers, and that suits CEO Jean-Bernard Levy just fine.
He joined as COO in 2002 as Jean-Marie Messier was ousted as CEO. Messier spent lavishly to turn the once-sleepy Paris-based water services firm into a force in Hollywood.
The high point was Messier’s acquisition of Seagram, the liquor giant that owned Universal’s music company, movie studio and theme parks.
But it was too much. French and U.S. securities officials later fined Messier for issuing inaccurate information about Vivendi’s finances.
Levy, 51, helped to engineer asset sales to clean up the mess. Notably, General Electric’s NBC agreed in 2003 to pay $3.8 billion for an 80% stake in Universal Studios.
That cleared the way for Levy, who became CEO in 2005, to focus on operations, including the world’s No. 1 music company and a fast-growing video game operation.
He recently discussed his company’s businesses and plans with media reporter David Lieberman.