Man Without Qualities

Tuesday, July 02, 2002

Never Give a Sucker an Even Break! III

As if on cue, the New York Times now reports that "the eyes of Hollywood insiders are on a man they love to watch: Barry Diller." [People anywhere love to "watch" Barry Diller? Even after they've seen what he looks like? Would "keep track of" have been a better choice of wording?]

But, wait, Mr. Diller isn't on that list of Frenchmen who are being considered by the Vivendi board as replacements for Mr. Messier.

Worse, the Times has no problem at all reporting the unresolved inconsistency that:

"[W]ith Mr. Messier gone, Mr. Diller is likely to be a partner once again with Edgar Bronfman Jr., who ... many people in the industry believe will be forced to again play a larger role;"

But ...

"[F]riends and colleagues of both men say that the relationship between them is strained ... and Mr. Diller is unlikely to be willing to work for Mr. Bronfman."

And let's not forget that "many at Universal Pictures and the Universal Music Group were displeased at the notion of Mr. Bronfman's regaining influence over the units.

To sum things up simply: The dominant faction of the Vivendi board is deeply uncomfortable with any increase in American or Canadian influence in the company. But Barry Diller is thought to be about to more or less take over. The American Mr. Diller needs to do that together with the Canadian Edgar Bronfman Jr., who will be "forced" to assume a larger role. Except that Diller won't work for Mr. Bronfman and many at Universal Pictures and the Universal Music Group - the supposed American "crown jewels" of Vivendi, which the board may think are actually just "expensive baubles" - are displeased at Mr. Bronfman's regaining influence.

Well, I'm glad they cleared that up.

Interesting times. Very interesting times, indeed. And very expensive times for the shareholders, too, in all likelihood.

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