In a surprise verdict, a French court ruled today (Friday) that former Vivendi CEO Jean-Marie Messier had misappropriated company funds and misrepresented the financial condition of The Company when he went on a $77-billion acquisition binge in 2000 that included bringing Universal Pictures and Universal Music under the Vivendi umbrella. The conviction came despite the fact that the prosecutor in the case had opposed an investigating judge's decision to send it to trial. The prosecutor, Chantal de Leiris, had recommended in his closing arguments that Messier be cleared. Instead, the court handed Messier a three-year suspended sentence and also gave Edgar Bronfman Jr., who had sold Seagram's (which owned the Universal media entities) to Vivendi for $34 billion in 2000, a 15-month suspended sentence and a $6.77-million fine for insider trading. Bronfman, who is now CEO at Warner Music, became Vivendi's vice chairman following the acquisition and was accused of using his inside knowledge of the financial turmoil at Vivendi in 2002 to begin unloading his stock in the company.
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