Aegis 'Destroying Value', Says Bolloré as Agency Digs In

12 June 2006

In the customary bombardment before an assault, French corporate raider and Havas chairman Vincent Bolloré has loosed an opening salvo at the board of London-headquartered media and research specialist Aegis Group.

In an open letter to Aegis chairman Lord Colin Sharman, copied to every financial journalist in his contacts book, Bolloré accused the Aegis board of creating "a troubled phase in its history which could destroy value".

Complaining at the media group's refusal to offer boardroom seats to his placemen Roger Hatchuell and Phillipe Germond, the letter continues: "It is a basic principle of company law [that] shareholders who invest and risk their money ought to be able to be represented on the board."

This, fears the ruthless raider could lead to a "lose-lose situation" in the wake of Wednesday's annual meeting which will decide whether or not to support his demand for board representation.

Aegis dismissed Bolloré's letter, saying it failed to alter its belief that two Bolloré placemen on its board would constitute a "severe conflict of interest" given the raider's role at Havas - a direct competitor on the media front. "We are protecting the interests of shareholders," Aegis insisted.

The London shop then launched its counter-attack with a statement specifying that each resolution at the AGM will be voted by poll - meaning that every Aegis share equals one vote. Shareholders not attending the meeting can also vote by post or electronically, their votes counted after the meeting ends.

The poll method will ensure that Aegis commands maximum support from its 'big gun' investors - whom it has been actively lobbying over past weeks. The archaic but still widely used "show of hands" where each shareholder has one vote irrespective of the number of shares held, could produce a very different result.

Data sourced from Financial Times Online and BrandRepublic (UK); additional content by WARC staff