De Pouzilhac Set to Quit as Bolloré Wins Boardroom Battle

10 June 2005

The ad world's version of the Gunfight at the OK Corral ended Thursday at the annual shareholders meeting of French marketing services giant Havas.

As corporate raider Vincent Bolloré blew the smoke from the barrel of his six-shooter, Havas chairman/ceo Alain de Pouzilhac lay in the dust, pondering his future.

Bolloré, a seasoned corporate gunfighter, had done his pre-meeting target practice, calling in favours from among his fellow shareholders.

Their votes, added to the 20.4% stake in Havas already held by Bolloré's investment vehicle Bolloré Médias Investissements, were enough to win him four seats on the eighteen-strong Havas board - a move bitterly opposed by the de Pouzilhac camp.

The meeting also vetoed a number of proposals put forward by de Pouzilhac and his present co-directors, among them a resolution authorising share awards for employees.

De Pouzilhac was gracious in defeat, telling shareholders at the meeting's close that "democracy works". Bolloré, however, as befits the guy in the black hat, was less than magnanimous.

In a post-meeting interview he told the Financial Times he was "not sure at all" that he and de Pouzilhac would be able to work together. Pushing the hat from his brow with his guntip, he told the FT he expects the defeated Havas boss to leave the company.

Bolloré also denied he intends to sell his Havas stake to a competitor such as WPP Group or Publicis Groupe. But he hailed WPP's Sir Martin Sorrell as "an old friend" and Publicis ceo Maurice Levy as a "tough guy".

But as Western afficionados will attest, the Boot Hill graveyard is overflowing with innocents who believed a guy in a black hat.

Data sourced from Financial Times Online; additional content by WARC staff