Vivendi was the name of a French company that acquired Sierra, and which merged in 2000 with Canal+ television networks and the Canadian company Seagram, the owner of Universal Studios film company, to become Vivendi Universal.
The leading software package for care management and staff organisation in Germany is also named Vivendi. The German software company CONNEXT introduced this software in 1995 and registred VIVENDI as a trademark in 1996.
In 1853, a water company named "Compagnie Générale des Eaux" (CGE) was created by Imperial decree in order to supply water to the public in Lyon. It served in this capacity for over a hundred years. Beginning in 1980, CGE began diversifying its operations from water into waste management, energy, transport services, and construction and property.
In 1983, CGE helped to found Canal+, the first Pay-TV channel in France. In the 1990s, they began expanding into telecommunications and mass media.
In 1996, Vivendi created Cegetel to take advantage of the 1998 deregulation of the French telecommunications market; it is, as of 2004, currently a leading provider of both fixed and mobile services. Vivendi's CanalSatellite is the first digital television network available in France.
In June of 1999, Vivendi merged with Pathé, the exchange ratio for the merger fixed at three Vivendi shares for every two Pathé shares. The Wall Street Journal estimated the value of the deal at US $2.59 billion. Following the completion of the merger, Vivendi retained Pathé's interests in British Sky Broadcasting Group PLC and CanalSatellite, a French broadcasting corporation, then sold all remaining assets to Jérôme Seydoux's family-owned holding company, Fornier SA who changed its name to Pathé.
In 1998, the company changed its name to Vivendi, and sold off its property and construction divisions the following year.
Vivendi went on to acquire stakes in or merge with Maroc Telecom, Havas, Cendant Software, Anaya, and NetHold, a large Continental European pay-TV operator. Beginning in 1998, Vivendi launched digital channels in Italy, Spain, Poland, Scandinavia, Belgium, and the Netherlands.
In July 2000, the company spun off the remaining water and waste companies into Vivendi Environnement, later renamed Veolia Environnement. In September, Vivendi was listed on the New York Stock Exchange (as "V"). Finally, in December, it announced a major merger with Canal+ and with Seagram, the owner of Universal Studios film company. At that point the company was renamed Vivendi Universal.
Jean-Marie Messier, Vivendi's flamboyant CEO (who had overseen the most dramatic phase of the company's diversification), was replaced in 2002 by Jean-Rene Fourtou.