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photo Where is the iPod Killer? Part II
The Killer Piñata

Edgar Bronfman Jr. is good at killing things. Through the 70's, he killed his career as an aspiring film and Broadway producer with a series of killer duds, a reign of failure completed with his first Hollywood failure, "The Border," in 1982.

After so much personal destruction, he turned his attention toward destroying his family's billion dollar Seagram legacy. Once Bronfman Jr. took over as president of the liqueur dynasty built by his grandfather, he decided booze was boring and that the real fun would come from selling off the family empire to make himself a media hotshot by snapping up entertainment companies.

He killed Seagram's profitable $9 billion cash cow stake in DuPont chemicals to buy a $5.7 billion majority in MCA (Universal Pictures) in 1995. In 1998 he killed $10.4 billion dollars of Seagram's remaining wealth to buy Polygram records. The murderous rampage against his family's Seagram legacy was brutal, but there were still billions left to kill.

Bronfman Jr. has no business sense; he was just a billionaire rich kid buying up things he found exciting. He didn't know how to run anything, so at the height of the dot com fantasy years, when media companies should have been making money simply by default, the Universal empire he amassed was floundering and executives were leaving almost as fast as investors.

Salon described Bronfman Jr. in a 1998 story as "the movie industry's official idiot--a 42-year-old child who's squandering his family (and his shareholders') fortune on romantic Tinseltown fantasies."

Bronfman Jr. unsheathed his sword and cut off Universal's TV business, selling it to Barry Diller in a complicated arrangement that gave Diller control, and Bronfman Jr. more money to invest in movies and music. The arrangement specified that once Diller stepped down, control would revert back to Seagram. Bronfman Jr. trumpeted this as if it were a great coup. An insider Hollywood executive jeered "He's like a piñata! Hit him and money comes out!"

As bad as things were for Universal, Seagram investors and the Bronfman family, Edgar Bronfman Jr. still had plenty left to kill. He just needed a partner to do damage faster. He met his match in French megalomaniac Jean-Marie Messier.

Like Bronfman Jr., Messier had taken a boring but successful company (CGE, a massive French water and sewage utility, originally created by an imperial decree of Napoleon III in 1853), and determined to turn it into a sexy rocket of music, movies and television designed to fire himself up into the entertainment stratosphere and get established as a preeminent media mogul.

To accomplish this fantasy, the self-important ignorant boob Messier, like the self-important ignorant boob Bronfman Jr., presided over the inside-out rape of his own company. After changing its name to Vivendi, Messier spun off its construction business and went on a buying frenzy of telecom, cable TV, and Internet companies.

Messier was buying everything, and wrote about it in his book J6M, an abbreviation of "Jean-Marie Messier, Moi-Meme, Maitre du Monde" (myself, master of the world).

After meeting with Messier, Bronfman Jr. realized the two could join their mega-media concerns and copilot a truly international media giant. In 2000, Vivendi spun off the remains of its water utility origins and gobbled up Seagram and its Universal Studios to become Vivendi Universal.

Part III > Edgar Bronfman Jr. is a big fat idiot

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