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Music bosses in court

The former head of Vivendi, Jean-Marie Messier, went on trial in Paris this morning charged with criminal fraud, false accounting and other counts arising from his takeover of the international music group Universal in the freewheeling 1990s.

Among five others charged with him is Edgar Bronfman Jr, a former Universal chief, now head of Warner Music Group. Messier, 53, was forced to quit in 2002 and has been back-pedalling ever since. Bronfman, heir to a liquor fortune, has bounced back.

Neither is expected to go to jail, but the trial will last all month and ought to reveal how the men at the top of the music business bat its fortunes around like so many beachballs.

Messier and Bronfman represent, between them, more than half of the world’s music industry. The indictment is not so much against half a dozen individuals as against the way the global business is run. The impact on classical music was detailed in my last book.

First report appears here. I shall read the verdicts with interest.

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