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FTR #300 If Music Be the Food of Love, Munch On! Part 3

Serpent's WalkLis­ten:
MP3 One Seg­ment [1]
RealAu­dio [2]
NB: This RealAu­dio stream con­tains FTRs 299 and 300 in sequence. Each is a 30-minute broad­cast.

1. The title of this pro­gram derives from a pas­sage from the Nazi tract Ser­pen­t’s Walk. Like The Turn­er Diaries (also pub­lished by Nation­al Van­guard Books), the book seems to be a blue­print for a Nazi takeover of the Unit­ed States (rather than a nov­el), set to take place in the mid­dle of the 21st cen­tu­ry. The book describes the Third Reich going under­ground, buy­ing into the Amer­i­can media, and tak­ing over the coun­try. “It assumes that Hitler’s war­rior elite — the SS — did­n’t give up their strug­gle for a White world when they lost the Sec­ond World War. Instead their sur­vivors went under­ground and adopt­ed some of the tac­tics of their ene­mies: they began build­ing their eco­nom­ic mus­cle and buy­ing into the opin­ion-form­ing media. A cen­tu­ry after the war they are ready to chal­lenge the democ­rats and Jews for the hearts and minds of White Amer­i­cans, who have begun to have their fill of gov­ern­ment-enforced mul­ti-cul­tur­al­ism and ‘equal­i­ty.’ ” (From the back cov­er of Ser­pen­t’s Walk by “Ran­dolph D. Calver­hall;” Copy­right 1991 [SC]; Nation­al Van­guard Books; 0–937944-05‑X.)

2. This process is described in more detail in a pas­sage of text, con­sist­ing of a dis­cus­sion between Wrench (a mem­ber of this Under­ground Reich) and a mer­ce­nary named Less­ing. “The SS . . . what was left of it . . . had busi­ness objec­tives before and dur­ing World War II. When the war was lost they just kept on, but from oth­er places: Bogo­ta, Asun­cion, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Mex­i­co City, Colom­bo, Dam­as­cus, Dac­ca . . . you name it. They real­ized that the world is head­ing towards a ‘cor­po­racra­cy;’ five or ten inter­na­tion­al super-com­pa­nies that will run every­thing worth run­ning by the year 2100. Those super-cor­po­ra­tions exist now, and they’re already divid­ing up the pro­duc­tion and mar­ket­ing of food, trans­port, steel and heavy indus­try, oil, the media, and oth­er com­modi­ties. They’re most­ly con­glom­er­ates, with fin­gers in more than one pie . . . . We, the SS, have the say in four or five. We’ve been com­pet­ing for the past six­ty years or so, and we’re slow­ly gain­ing . . . . About ten years ago, we swung a merg­er, a takeover, and got vot­ing con­trol of a super­corp that runs a small but sig­nif­i­cant chunk of the Amer­i­can media. Not open­ly, not with bands and trum­pets or swastikas fly­ing, but qui­et­ly: one huge cor­po­ra­tion cud­dling up to anoth­er one and gen­tly munch­ing it up, like a great, gub­bing amoe­ba. Since then we’ve been replac­ing exec­u­tives, push­ing some­body out here, bring­ing some­body else in there. We’ve swing pro­gram con­tent around, too. Not much, but a lit­tle, so it won’t show. We’ve cut down on ‘nasty-Nazi’ movies . . . good guys in white hats and bad guys in black SS hats . . . lov­able Jews ver­sus fiendish Ger­mans . . . and we have media psy­chol­o­gists, ad agen­cies, and behav­ior mod­i­fi­ca­tion spe­cial­ists work­ing on image changes. (Ibid.; pp. 42–43.)

3. Before turn­ing direct­ly to the sub­ject of music, the broad­cast address­es the grad­ual remak­ing of the image of the Third Reich that is rep­re­sent­ed in Ser­pen­t’s Walk. In the dis­cus­sion excerpt­ed above, this process is fur­ther described. “Hell, if you can con granny into buy­ing Sug­ar Turds instead of Bran Farts, then why can’t you swing pub­lic opin­ion over to a cause as vital and impor­tant as ours?’ . . . In any case, we’re slow­ly replac­ing those neg­a­tive images with oth­ers: the ‘Good Bad Guy’ rou­tine’ . . . ‘What do you think of Jesse James? John Dillinger? Julius Cae­sar? Genghis Khan?’ . . . The real­i­ty may have been rough, but there’s a sort of glit­ter about most of those dudes: mean hon­chos but respectable. It’s all how you pack­age it. Opin­ion is a godamned com­mod­i­ty!’ . . . It works with any­body . . . Give it time. Aside from the media, we’ve been buy­ing up pri­vate schools . . . and help­ing some pub­lic ones through phil­an­thropic foun­da­tions . . .and work­ing on the church­es and the Born Agains.” (Ibid.; pp. 42–44.)

4. The grad­ual remak­ing of the image of the Third Reich through the media and a resul­tant process of behav­ior mod­i­fi­ca­tion is sug­gest­ed in a syn­di­cat­ed col­umn that is the next top­ic of dis­cus­sion. “The forth­com­ing movie ‘Tomb Raider,’ open­ing June 15, is a case in point; it flirts with what might be called Nazi Chic. The March 26 issue of Time mag­a­zine fea­tures a pho­to of actress Angeli­na Jolie play­ing super­heroine Lara Croft. She is decked in ter­mi­na­trix black, and on her gold belt buck­le is what looks unmis­tak­ably like the skull and cross­bones sym­bol of the Nazi Schutzstaffel, or SS. That’s right, the Totenkopf — death’s head — of the Ger­man killer elite. John C. Zim­mer­mann is the author of ‘Holo­caust Denial,’ a book detail­ing pub­lic unwill­ing­ness to accept the truth about the 6 mil­lion mar­tyrs. Zim­mer­man notes that some peo­ple, even now, are ‘sucked into the pageantry’ of Nazism. He spec­u­lates that the ‘Tomb Raider’ mak­ers took an ini­tial lik­ing to the tough-punk style of the Totenkopf emblem with­out real­iz­ing what it was. And that’s part of the prob­lem. ‘A lot of peo­ple now are igno­rant of his­to­ry,’ Zim­mer­man explains. But that makes it all the more impor­tant, he con­tin­ues, for pop­u­lar cul­ture pro­duc­ers to “be care­ful about han­dling sym­bols, about any­thing that may tend to give Nazism legit­i­ma­cy.’ Such con­cern brings to mind anoth­er film-in-progress. Jodie Fos­ter is work­ing on a biopic of Leni Riefen­stahl, direc­tor of such Nazi ‘clas­sics’ as ‘Tri­umph of the Will.’ In an inter­view with the Lon­don Dai­ly Tele­graph last year, Fos­ter explained her attrac­tion to Riefen­stahl, still alive at 98: ‘I’ve been inter­est­ed in Leni for many many years. . . . She is an extra­or­di­nary woman — sharp as a tack and as beau­ti­ful as she ever was, with a tremen­dous body.’ Fos­ter’s word choic­es reveal much about the true nature of Nazi Chic. Peo­ple today don’t believe in Nation­al Social­ism or in exter­mi­nat­ing Jews. But the lega­cy of Nazism, in all its flam­boy­ant evil, is an out­ra­geous aes­thet­ic that plays well in an out­ra­geous cul­ture. That is, in a soci­ety that’s seen it all, per­haps it’s only Nazism that still has the pow­er to shock and stun. Such impact-imagery is worth a lot to those sell­ing books or movie tick­ets or fash­ion. Susan Son­tag made this point in her 1975 essay ‘Fas­ci­nat­ing Fas­cism.’ ” (“The Hot New Allure of Nazi Chic” by James P. Pinker­ton; San Fran­cis­co Chron­i­cle; 4/20/2001; p. A23.)

5. Next, the broad­cast high­lights the uti­liza­tion of music as a vehi­cle for intro­duc­ing young peo­ple to fas­cism and desen­si­tiz­ing them and/or con­vert­ing them. A recent arti­cle in the Ital­ian press under­scored the impor­tance of rock music to con­tem­po­rary fas­cist groups. “Con­certs and com­pact discs have replaced leaflets and poster. Recruit­ment of young peo­ple into the extreme right now hap­pens through music. Mas­si­mo Morsel­lo, the leader of Forza Nuo­va, was for­mer­ly a singer for the Salo Repub­lic and was described as the fas­cist de Gre­gori. [The band Salo Repub­lic is named after Mus­solin­i’s last ditch, rump fas­cist gov­ern­ment that was estab­lished in North­ern Italy under Ger­man pro­tec­tion near the end of the war.] His [Morsel­lo’s] record com­pa­ny, Rupe Tarpea, owns Lon­dini­um SPQR, the label of Francesco Pal­lot­ti­no. Pal­lot­ti­no was involved in the probe into the assault on two young left­ists by two skin­head broth­ers in Capran­i­ca Cin­e­ma in Rome. Pal­lot­ti­no, acquit­ted on all charges, lives in Lon­don and works for [Rober­to] Fiore and Morsel­lo’s com­pa­ny, Meet­ing Point. Meet­ing Point is a trav­el agency and trav­el­ers’ aid soci­ety that orga­nizes con­certs in Eng­land and finds work for young for­eign­ers. Mar­cel­lo de Ange­lis, the edi­tor of the Allean­za Nationale mag­a­zine Area, has a band called 270 Bis. De Ange­lis, Fiore, and Morsel­lo were all con­vict­ed under Arti­cle 270, which pro­hibits asso­ci­a­tions for the pur­pose of ter­ror­ism.” (“Ein! Zwei! Drei! . . . Every­body Sing!” by Peter Gomez; L’E­spres­so; 1/11/2001; p. 56.)

6. Recent­ly, Ber­tels­mann (a major focal point of this series) end­ed its talks with EMI con­cern­ing a Ber­tels­mann-con­trolled merg­er. “Merg­er talks between EMI Group PLC and the music unit of Ber­tels­mann AG col­lapsed amid reg­u­la­to­ry resis­tance, slam­ming the door on con­sol­i­da­tion among the five music ‘majors’ for the fore­see­able future, say music-indus­try offi­cials.” (“EMI, Ber­tels­mann Unit End Merg­er Talks” by Charles Gold­smith, William Boston and Mar­tin Peers; Wall Street Jour­nal; 5/2/2001; p. A25.)

7. Ber­tels­man­n’s pro­ject­ed moves to vault it into first place in the music busi­ness are dis­cussed in FTR-303. FTR-300 turns next to dis­cus­sion of Zom­ba records (20% owned by Ber­tels­mann.) This firm was seen as a major play­er in the unsuc­cess­ful nego­ti­a­tions between Ber­tels­mann and EMI. Zom­ba is an unusu­al­ly secre­tive firm, its founder shun­ning pub­lic­i­ty and the fir­m’s web site fail­ing to give a busi­ness address or phone num­ber! Zom­ba head Clive Calder is a native of South Africa (hav­ing grown up there dur­ing the Apartheid regime.) “As the founder of Zom­ba, which over the pat 20-odd years has grown into one of the world’s biggest inde­pen­dent music groups, Mr. Calder has been able to go about his busi­ness in rel­a­tive obscu­ri­ty. Mr. Calder’s assis­tant polite­ly declined a request for an inter­view with the Finan­cial Times, say­ing he was not ready to make an excep­tion to his ‘long-stand­ing no-inter­view pol­i­cy.’ How­ev­er, he now finds him­self thrust into the spot­light as a cen­tral fig­ure in the dis­cus­sions between two of his rivals to cre­ate the world’s largest music group. . . .Close friends and asso­ciates of Mr. Calder remain intense­ly loy­al and are uncom­fort­able talk­ing about him behind his back — even if it is to pile on the com­pli­ments, of which there are many. Indeed, it is hard to find any­one with a bad word to say about this man, who has achieved a near-myth­i­cal sta­tus in the busi­ness. Per­haps that is the genius of a no-press pol­i­cy. Details of his cor­po­rate his­to­ry are almost as scarce. His press office keeps a tight rein on the flow of infor­ma­tion out of the com­pa­ny and zeal­ous­ly guards his pri­va­cy. Web­sites for his busi­ness­es fea­ture only the artists. There are no ‘about us’ links, not even a con­tact address or tele­phone num­ber. So who is Clive Calder? He was born In South Africa and is now 54. He found­ed Zom­ba in Lon­don in the late 1970’s, when he began a career in which he has man­aged stars such as Bil­ly Ocean, Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince and A Tribe Called Quest. . . . He has already been drawn into the dis­cus­sions between EMI and BMG because part of his own com­pa­ny is at stake. BMG has a 20 per cent share­hold­ing in Zom­ba, which is now based in New York. . . . BMG owns the North Amer­i­can dis­tri­b­u­tion rights for Jive, a huge­ly prof­itable label that is said to account for as much as a quar­ter of BMG’s rev­enues in the U.S. and the same pro­por­tion of its world­wide mar­ket share.” (“A Spot­light Turns on the Recluse” by Ash­ling O’Con­nor; Finan­cial Times; 2/23/2001; p. 12.)

8. Mr. Calder’s South African gen­e­sis is inter­est­ing to con­tem­plate in the con­text of his reclu­sive nature and the rel­a­tive­ly secre­tive nature of his busi­ness. The apartheid regime of South Africa and the elite core of its gov­ern­men­tal and com­mer­cial infra­struc­ture (the Broeder­bond) have very strong his­tor­i­cal and insti­tu­tion­al con­nec­tions to the Third Reich. The Broeder­bond was allied with Nazi Ger­many dur­ing the Sec­ond World War and a Third Reich agent, Graf Durkheim von Mont­martin, was dis­patched to reor­ga­nize the orga­ni­za­tion along the lines of the NSDAP (the Ger­man Nazi par­ty.) The Broeder­bond and the apartheid regime remained very close to what is called the Under­ground Reich. In light of Zom­ba’s con­nec­tion to BMG (Ber­tels­man­n’s music divi­sion), Calder’s South African birth, the South Africa/Nazi con­nec­tion and the secre­tive nature of Calder and his oper­a­tions, it is not unrea­son­able to ask whether Zom­ba might be a Bor­mann com­pa­ny.

9. Anoth­er major ele­ment of dis­cus­sion con­cerns Viven­di, the par­ent com­pa­ny of Uni­ver­sal Music. Viven­di is a major French cor­po­ra­tion, hav­ing been found­ed by Napoleon III as a prin­ci­pal gov­ern­ment util­i­ty con­trac­tor. It was trans­formed into a media giant by its CEO Jean-Marie Messier. “For near­ly a cen­tu­ry and a half, Com­pag­nie Gen­erale des Eaux lived under the shad­ow of Napoleon III, whose impe­r­i­al decree cre­at­ed the com­pa­ny to man­age the sew­er­age and water­works of the French state. So when Jean-Marie Messier. . . became chair­man in 1996, he inher­it­ed a sprawl­ing state con­trac­tor with 2,714 sub­sidiaries, which did every­thing from pump­ing water through Paris to build­ing gen­er­a­tors in Chi­na, to sup­ply­ing school can­teens in Nor­mandy, to exter­mi­nat­ing pests in Papua New Guinea. Since then Mr. Messier has proved to be a busi­ness­man with impe­r­i­al ambi­tions of his own. Over the past five years, he has sold out of sew­er­age and pow­er and bought into music and movies, trad­ing in the com­pa­ny’s 148-year his­to­ry in infra­struc­ture for an unpre­dictable future on the inter­net. Approx­i­mate­ly $27bn) worth of busi­ness­es have been sold, and the his­toric water busi­ness was split off last year. The Gen­erale des Eaux name has been dis­pensed with, trad­ed in for Vivendi—a name invent­ed by con­sul­tants. With last year’s $34bn acqui­si­tion of Sea­gram, the Cana­di­an group which owned the Uni­ver­sal enter­tain­ment busi­ness­es, Mr. Messier emerged as the chair­man of the world’s sec­ond largest media group. . . . The old water com­pa­ny now touch­es the lives of hun­dreds of mil­lions of peo­ple around the world: Uni­ver­sal Music’s ros­ter of stars includes Abba, Bob Mar­ley and Eminem: Uni­ver­sal’s stu­dios boast such hits as Glad­i­a­tor, The Grinch and out this week is Brid­get Jones’s Diary; Canal Plus is the largest pan-Euro­pean pay-TV group; oth­er busi­ness inter­ests, such as USA Net­works and Viz­za­vi, a joint ven­ture por­tal with Voda­fone, give it access to most of the devel­oped world.” (“Ambi­tious Emper­or Strives to Ride a Nar­row Path” by James Hard­ing and Jo John­son; Finan­cial Times; 4/3/2001; p. 20.)

10. Past dis­cus­sion of Ber­tels­mann has set forth strong cir­cum­stan­tial evi­dence that the firm is prob­a­bly a Bor­mann com­pa­ny. The eco­nom­ic and polit­i­cal com­po­nent of a Third Reich gone under­ground, the Bor­mann orga­ni­za­tion con­trols cor­po­rate Ger­many and much of the rest of the world.

11. Vivendi’s promi­nence in the media world is sig­nif­i­cant in the con­text of Ger­man (and under­ground Reich) cor­po­rate con­trol over the Amer­i­can media. As dis­cussed in FTR-278 (among oth­er broad­casts), the French econ­o­my remained under Ger­man con­trol, even after Ger­man armies left France in front of the advanc­ing Allies. This con­trol had its gen­e­sis with the close coop­er­a­tion that exist­ed [3] between the Ger­man and French finan­cial and indus­tri­al estab­lish­ments pri­or to the Sec­ond World War.

12. “In the years before the war, the Ger­man busi­ness­men, indus­tri­al­ists, and bankers had estab­lished close ties with their coun­ter­parts in France. After the blitzkrieg and inva­sion, the same French­men in many cas­es went on work­ing with their Ger­man peers. They did­n’t have much choice, to be sure, and the occu­pa­tion being insti­tut­ed, very few in the high ech­e­lons of com­merce and finance failed to col­lab­o­rate. The Third Repub­lic’s busi­ness elite was vir­tu­al­ly unchanged after 1940 . . . They regard­ed the war and Hitler as an unfor­tu­nate diver­sion from their chief mis­sion of pre­vent­ing a com­mu­nist rev­o­lu­tion in France. Anti­bol­she­vism was a com­mon denom­i­na­tor link­ing these French­men to Ger­mans, and it account­ed for a vol­un­teer French divi­sion on the East­ern Front. . .The upper-class men who had been superbly trained in finance and admin­is­tra­tion at one of the two grand corps schools were referred to as France’s per­ma­nent ‘wall of mon­ey,’ and as pro­fes­sion­als they came into their own in 1940. They agreed to the estab­lish­ment of Ger­man sub­sidiary firms in France and per­mit­ted a gen­er­al buy-in to French com­pa­nies.” (Mar­tin Bor­mann: Nazi in Exile; Paul Man­ning; Copy­right 1981 [HC]; Lyle Stu­art Inc.; ISBN 0–8184-0309–8; pp. 70–71.) [4]

13. The Ger­man eco­nom­ic con­trol of the French econ­o­my pro­ceed­ed smooth­ly into the post­war peri­od. “Soci­ety’s nat­ur­al sur­vivors, French ver­sion, who had served the Third Reich as an exten­sion of Ger­man indus­try, would con­tin­ue to do so in the peri­od of post­war tri­als, just as they had sur­vived the war, occu­pa­tion, and lib­er­a­tion. These were many of the French elite, the well-born, the prop­er­tied, the titled, the experts, indus­tri­al­ists, busi­ness­men, bureau­crats, bankers. . . . Eco­nom­ic col­lab­o­ra­tion in France with the Ger­mans had been so wide­spread (on all lev­els of soci­ety) that there had to be a real­iza­tion that an entire nation could not be brought to tri­al. Only a few years before, there had been many a sin­cere and well-mean­ing Frenchman—as in Bel­gium, Eng­land, and through­out Europe — who believed Nation­al Social­ism to be the wave of the future, indeed, the only hope for cur­ing the many des­per­ate social, polit­i­cal, and eco­nom­ic ills of the time. France, along with oth­er occu­pied coun­tries, did con­tribute vol­un­teers for the fight against Rus­sia. Then there were many oth­er French­men, the major­i­ty, who resigned­ly felt there was no way the Ger­mans could be pushed back across the Rhine.” (Ibid.; p. 30.)

14. Long after the war, the Bor­mann orga­ni­za­tion con­tin­ued to wield effec­tive con­trol of the French econ­o­my, uti­liz­ing the cor­po­rate rela­tion­ships devel­oped before and dur­ing the occu­pa­tion. “The char­ac­ter­is­tic secre­cy sur­round­ing the actions of Ger­man indus­tri­al­ists and bankers dur­ing the final nine months of the war, when Bor­man­n’s flight cap­i­tal pro­gram held their com­plete atten­tion, was also car­ried over into the post­war years, when they began pulling back the skeins of eco­nom­ic wealth and pow­er that stretched out to neu­tral nations of the world and to for­mer­ly occu­pied lands. There was a sug­ges­tion of this in France. Flo­ra Lewis, writ­ing from Paris in the New York Times of August 28, 1972, told of her con­ver­sa­tion with a French pub­lish­er: ‘It would not be pos­si­ble to trace own­er­ship of cor­po­ra­tions and the pow­er struc­ture as in the Unit­ed States. ‘They’ would not per­mit it. ‘They’ would find a way to hound and tor­ture any­one who tried,’ com­ment­ed the pub­lish­er. ‘They’ seem to be a fair­ly small group of peo­ple who know each oth­er, but many are not at all known to the pub­lic. ‘They’ move in and out of gov­ern­ment jobs, but pub­lic ser­vice appar­ent­ly serves to win pri­vate pro­mo­tion rather than the oth­er way around. The Gov­ern­ment ‘con­trol’ that prac­ti­cal­ly every­one men­tions can­not be traced through stock hold­ings, reg­u­la­to­ry agen­cies, pub­lic deci­sions. It seems to func­tion through a maze of per­son­al con­tacts and tac­it under­stand­ings.’ The under­stand­ings arrived at in the pow­er struc­ture of France reach back to pre­war days, were con­tin­ued dur­ing the occu­pa­tion, and have car­ried over to the present time. Lewis, in her report from Paris, com­ment­ed fur­ther: ‘This hid­den con­trol of gov­ern­ment and cor­po­ra­tions has pro­duced a gen­er­al unease in Paris.’ Along with the unease, the fact that France has lin­ger­ing and seri­ous social and polit­i­cal ail­ments is a residue of World War II and of an eco­nom­ic occu­pa­tion that was nev­er real­ly ter­mi­nat­ed with the with­draw­al of Ger­man troops beyond the Rhine. It was this spe­cial eco­nom­ic rela­tion­ship between Ger­man and French indus­tri­al­ists that made it pos­si­ble for Friedrich Flick to arrange with the De-Wen­del steel firm in France for pur­chase of his shares in his Ruhr coal com­bine for $45 mil­lion, which was to start him once more on the road back to wealth and pow­er, after years in prison fol­low­ing his con­vic­tion at Nurem­berg. West Ger­many’s eco­nom­ic pow­er struc­ture is fueled by a two-tier sys­tem: the cor­po­ra­tions and indi­vid­u­als who pub­licly rep­re­sent the prod­ucts that are com­mon house­hold names around the world, and the secre­tive groups oper­at­ing in the back­ground as hold­ing com­pa­nies and who pull the threads of pow­er in over­seas cor­po­ra­tions estab­lished dur­ing the Bor­mann tenure in the Third Reich. As explained to me, ‘These threads are like the strands of a spi­der’s web and no one knows where they lead – except the inner cir­cle of the Bor­mann orga­ni­za­tion in South Amer­i­ca.’ ” (Ibid.; pp. 271–272.)

15. As doc­u­ment­ed above, Viven­di is an old and very impor­tant French com­pa­ny. Not­ing the close rela­tion­ship between Viven­di and the French gov­ern­ment and, in turn, the close rela­tion­ship between the French gov­ern­ment and the hid­den net­works of Bor­mann eco­nom­ic pow­er, it seems prob­a­ble that Viven­di is heav­i­ly involved with the Bor­mann orga­ni­za­tion. Its phe­nom­e­nal growth in the world of glob­al media is, there­fore to be watched close­ly in the con­text of the line of inquiry being devel­oped in this pro­gram. As dis­cussed in FTR #‘s 261 and 263, Ber­tels­mann CEO Thomas Mid­del­hoff is a close per­son­al friend of Viven­di CEO Jean-Marie Messier and, until very recent­ly, was a mem­ber of Vivendi’s board of direc­tors.

16. Mid­del­hoff recent­ly resigned his posi­tion as a direc­tor of Viven­di, in order to pre­vent pos­si­ble con­flicts of inter­est from anger­ing EU reg­u­la­tors. (That would hin­der the expan­sion­ist goals of both Viven­di and Ber­tels­mann.) “Thomas Mid­del­hoff, chief exec­u­tive of Ber­tels­mann, is step­ping down from the board of Viven­di Uni­ver­sal in what is like­ly to presage a clean-up of the rela­tion­ship between Europe’s two largest media groups. The depar­ture of Mr. Mid­del­hoff comes as Ber­tels­mann, the pri­vate­ly owned Ger­man group, and Viven­di Uni­ver­sal, the French media com­pa­ny, dis­cuss deals cov­er­ing the tele­vi­sion, pub­lish­ing and music busi­ness­es. Talks are under­stood to be under way aimed at cre­at­ing a pen-Euro­pean com­pa­ny focused on the acqui­si­tion of sports rights. The ven­ture would be owned by Canal Plus, the pay-TV group con­trolled by Viven­di Uni­ver­sal, RTL Group, the Euro­pean broad­cast­er con­trolled by Ber­tels­mann, and JC Dar­mon, the sports com­mu­ni­ca­tions group. Viven­di Uni­ver­sal is con­sid­er­ing sell­ing to Ber­tels­mann its 50 per cent stake in France Loisirs, the French book club half-owned by the Ger­man group. Ber­tels­mann is think­ing about sell­ing its stake in GetMusic.com, the online music joint ven­ture between Ber­tels­mann Music Group and Uni­ver­sal Music. The dis­cus­sions under­line the close rela­tion­ship between Mr. Mid­del­hoff and Jean Marie-Messier, Viven­di chief exec­u­tive . . . Mr. Mid­del­hoff and Mr. Messier have been inter­twined in each oth­er’s suc­cess­es as chief exec­u­tives seek­ing to trans­form their com­pa­nies.” (“Mid­del­hoff to Leave Board of Viven­di Uni­ver­sal” by James Hard­ing and Jo John­son; Finan­cial Times; 3/14/2001; p. 15.)