Rebel VNU Shareholder Pushes Takeover Alternative

10 April 2006

VNU activist shareholder Eric Knight has offered an alternative version of the media and research giant's future - one that does not involve a complete private equity takeover.

Knight, managing director of New York-based Knight Vinke Asset Management which owns around two percent of the ACNielsen parent, last week urged a shareholders' meeting in London to reject the €7.5 billion ($9.14bn; £5.22bn) deal, sell just 30% of the company, replace the board and hire new management.

He believes his plan would yield more cash and "allow shareholders that want to exit to find an exit at or around the current price and the rest to carry on with the company and reap the benefits".

The board of Netherlands-headquartered VNU has recommended acceptance of the offer from the six-strong consortium, which includes Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and the Blackstone Group. But to ink the deal it needs approval from 95% of shareholders - a nod unlikely to be forthcoming.

VNU remains zip-lipped about Knight's proposal but it has defended its recommendation of the takeover, saying the deal is in the best interest of shareholders, employees and clients.

The battle for hearts and minds is likely become fiercer in the days leading up to the company's annual meeting on April 18.

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