Nearly a week after international communications giant Vivendi's stormy board meeting, the sides are busy fortifying their positions and planning strategy for more war, which is sure to come.
On one side of the trans-Atlantic battlefield stands controversial French chairman Jean-Marie Messier.
The criticism is of Messier's management technique, but that wouldn't be the least bit interesting if the company's share price weren't at such a low ¿ 52% below its 52-week high and 60% off its September 2000 level.
On the other side of the battlefield, naturally we find those for whom the share's dive is most painful as well as those with the best chance to impact management of the company: the Canadian Jewish Bronfman family, headed by Edgar Bronfman Jr. who holds 3% of Vivendi, while Charles Bronfman and his branch of the family hold a 2.5% stake. Representatives of the extended Bronfman family fill three of the 16 chairs around the table at a Vivendi board meeting.
The Bronfmans became the biggest shareholder in Vivendi after agreeing in June 2000 to merge its holding company, Seagram, with Vivendi in a deal that closed in December of that year. The deal was supposed to create an international media giant that combined the power of Vivendi's European media holdings with the weight of Seagram's Universal Studios.
The merger created a monster that had the world's largest music company ¿ Universal Music ¿ Universal Studios, French television giant Canal Plus and the largest water utility in France.
Last Wednesday's board meeting was the Bronfman's golden opportunity to express dissatisfaction and try to clip Messier's wings. The initiative to curtail Messier's freedom of movement was handled by Charles Bronfman's lawyer.
After more than eight hours of debate with the video conference participation of some of the French board members, a compromise was reached. The board will establish a new governance committee which will attempt to oversee Messier and lead him to work harder for shareholders.
Vivendi isn't Charles Bronfman's only soured investment. The second significant investment he made n recent years that has handed him nothing but losses and damage to his reputation is right here in Israel. In the summer of 1997, Bronfman and his partner Jonathan Kolber bought control of Koor.
The basic deal closed at a $1.8 billion valuation for the concern, which didn't yet control ECI Telecom through shares it brought from Claridge, Kolber and Bronfman's joint investment fund. Nearly five years have gone by, during which time Koor has shrunk into a holding company with a $425 million market cap.
Who is to blame for Koor's dive in value? At Vivendi, it is easier for Charles Bronfman to answer that question: why Jean-Marie Messier, of course. Why? Because he is leading the company and because he is making the managerial decisions.
But leading Koor is Bronfman's partner Kolber. And the chairman of the board is none other than Bronfman himself. Like at Vivendi, at Koor Bronfman is also a major shareholder with the power to influence management. But unlike at Vivendi, at Koor Bronfman has only himself to blame. He also knows no one will give him the wake-up call he gave Messier just one week ago.