Aegis Shareholders' Fifth 'Non' to Bolloré in Two Years

26 May 2008

LONDON: Aegis Group's annual meeting on Friday delivered a resounding 'non' to yet another attempt – his fifth in two years – by French corporate raider Vincent Bolloré (pictured) to shoehorn two of his personal nominees onto the group's board.

Among Bolloré's multiplicity of business interests is rival marketing services conglomerate Havas, of which he is chairman with a controlling 32.9% stake.

He also holds 29.9% of Aegis, just 0.1% short of the level at which UK company law would require him to make a full takeover bid.

Of Friday's voting outcome, Aegis chairman Lord Colin Sharman said: "Today's vote makes it crystal clear that the vast majority of independent shareholders' voting recognise the innate conflict of interest represented by the nominees of a competitor's chairman and largest shareholder.

"This is the fifth time shareholders have shown they do not want Groupe Bolloré represented on the Aegis Board. It is our hope that Groupe Bolloré will finally listen to the voice of its fellow shareholders and respect shareholder democracy and good corporate governance."

It's highly unlikely that Sharman - or anyone else at Aegis - thinks that toa likely outcome. Bolloré, who did not attend the meeting, is notoriously persistent. 

Despite the fact that 91% of non-Groupe Bolloré shareholders eligible to vote at the meeting opposed the Havas chairman's proposals, he insists he will continue to press for representation on the Aegis board. 

The injection of new blood, he agues, would enhance the board, citing the advertising and technology experience of his two nominees – Roger Hatchuel and Philippe Germond – neither of whom, Bolloré claims, have financial links or other loyalties to Havas or Groupe Bolloré.

Wherever Hatchuel's loyalties lie, as the former chairman of family franchise the Cannes Lions International Advertising  Festival, the contents of his personal contacts book are the most sought-after in the business.

Meantime, analysts are wary about Bolloré's machinations. Says Deutsche Bank analyst Patrick Kirby: "[These] could compromise group strategy at Aegis and be commercially disruptive."

Data sourced from multiple origins; additional content by WARC staff