Jean-Marie Messier

CEO, Vivendi

Jean-Marie Messier is considered one OF the most ambitious media paviors on the Internet. But 2001 will show whether that ambition will enable him to propel Vivendi Universal into the elite of communications conglomerates.

Analysts and investors have mixed predictions.

Messier, or J2M as hes been nicknamed, took control of Vivendi in 1996, when it was just a simple utilities company. Since then, Messier has transformed it into a global communications provider and forged partnerships with content and communications providers around the world.

Last June, Messier arranged the $34 billion acquisition of Canadian beverage and entertainment powerhouse Seagram. The deal provided much-needed content for Vivendis communications services through the control of Seagrams Universal Studios and Universal Music, the largest music company in the world. Vivendi also merged with Canal+ Technologies, an international interactive TV company.

Now Vivendi has siphoned off its utilities business into Vivendi Environnement, and has plans to sell off Seagrams beverage business so it can focus on becoming Vivendi Universal, an international media conglomerate the likes of which may be comparable only to AOL Time Warner -- and which might be large enough to thwart competition from Viacom and The Walt Disney Co.

An integral piece of Messiers strategy is the deal he engineered with Vodafone AirTouch, the worlds largest wireless carrier, the joint goal being the creation and operation of Vizzavi, a multimedia portal that offers integrated content and services accessible from TVs, PCs and wireless devices, set to be launched in several markets this year.

So much of Vivendis future success is tied to Vizzavi. The capital investment needed to launch it worldwide and the trepidation that accompanies the plunge into uncharted waters such as wireless portals will be major factors in how the world views the man they call J2M in Y2K1.