Jean-Marie Messier has exited his post as chairman of Vivendi Universal following a board meeting yesterday, according to widespread, but still officially unconfirmed, reports.

French daily newspaper Le Monde said that Messier had agreed, albeit reluctantly, to quit his position, but that negotiations concerning his severance package could delay an official company announcement. Vivendi was unavailable for comment at press time.

Le Monde reported that the board meeting would also see the appointment of Jean-Rene Fourtou, vice chairman of the supervisory board of pharmaceutical group Aventis as temporary replacement - whose nomination allegedly had the backing of French prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin.

If confirmed, the move comes after a turbulent few weeks for the company and its boss, culminating in a showdown last Monday (June 24) when Messier seemed to have won a vote of confidence by the board.

In addition, a massive number of shares, numbering some 100 million, or 10% of the company's capital, have been traded in recent days, with Monday's press reports seeing a leap of 20% during the day. At the end of yesterday's trading, Vivendi's shares closed up just over 9% at Euros 23.9 on the Paris exchange.