Bolloré Defiant After Aegis Board Defeat

15 June 2006

Bloodied but unbowed, French corporate raider Vincent Bolloré vowed to continue his quest to obtain two seats on the Aegis Group board despite his decisive defeat at Wednesday's annual meeting .

Bolloré, who holds a 29% stake in Aegis, is the largest single shareholder in the London-headquartered media and market research group. He is also the individual largest shareholder and chairman of Havas, the world number five agency holding company by billings. Aegis ranks at number eight.

The Frenchman's battle to shoehorn two of his lieutenants - Roger Hatchuel and Phillipe Germond - onto the Aegis board was the most contentious agenda item at the UK company's annual meeting.

It clearly found little favour with other shareholders, garnering just 32% of the total vote - 29% of which came from Groupe Bolloré, the raider's investment vehicle.

Aegis chairman Lord Colin Sharman explained to the meeting why Aegis opposed Bolloré's demand for representation: "This is a fundamental and irreconcilable conflict of interest when Group Bolloré nominates directors and still has an interest in Havas," he said.

His argument appeared to carry more weight with attendees than Bolloré's oft-repeated assurance that he is a long-term investor in Aegis, his primary objective being to increase the company's share price.

The Havas chairman declared himself "upset" at Aegis's refusal to accept his nominees onto the board: "We are asking for two of thirteen board seats. It's normal. It's fair. It's a minority representation. We are going to continue to ask for such representation, and it means we enter into conflict with the board. We are not happy with that."

'Conflict', Bolloré promised the meeting and 'conflict' he duly provided by mustering his 29% voting muscle to defeat a board-recommended proposal that would have allowed Aegis to buy back shares.

The saga is clearly in for a long and tortuous run.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff