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PARIS (AP) _ Jean-Marie Messier, the embattled chairman of media giant Vivendi Universal, has agreed to resign under pressure from board members, a French newspaper reported.

Messier, whose departure has been anticipated since the company's stock collapsed to 13-year lows recently, tried to convince board members to let him stay before agreeing Sunday to step down, Le Monde newspaper said.

A company spokesman did not return two phone calls seeking comment.

The company's board is expected to meet Monday to appoint Jean-Rene Fourtou, vice-chairman of the supervisory board of the Aventis pharmaceutical company, for a six-month interim chairmanship, Le Monde said.

Fourtou was unanimously accepted by board members and has the backing of French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin's staff, the daily said.

Another French newspaper, Liberation, said the European directors _ five French and one Spanish _ had lost confidence in Messier's ability to reverse the company's fortunes.

The European directors had previously supported the French executive in boardroom battles with North American directors, who sought a change in strategy as the company struggles to cut debt of 30 billion euros ($29.5 billion).

However, the European directors met this weekend and decided to withdraw support, just a few days after voting in favor of Messier in a confidence motion called at a board meeting by Seagram heir Edgar Bronfman Jr., Liberation said.

Vivendi was a water-utility concern before Messier built it into a media powerhouse that includes the Canal Plus TV and film studios and the Universal Studios and Universal Music businesses that were once part of Canada's Seagram.