VNU Investor Launches Search for CEO

14 March 2006

Knight Vinke, a New York asset management firm that controls around 2% of VNU stock, is actively seeking a chief executive officer for the company - without a helmsman since the resignation of Rob van den Bergh after the group's abortive attempt to acquire IMS Health [WAMN: 17-Nov-05].

Reminiscent of a python choking on a swallowed elephant, VNU not only disgorged IMS but much of its own share value as well, laying the group wide open to takeover. A vulnerability exploited by a consortium of six private equity firms with a $8.5 billion (€7.15bn; £4.90bn) bid, approved by VNU management.

But Knight Vinke, which boasts of specializing in "shareholder engagement techniques", last week came out against the takeover [WAMN: 09-Mar-06], as did Fidelity International, controller of around 15% of VNU.

KV chairman Eric Knight, referring to his self-appointed role of search consultant for VNU, claims: "There are serious and very credible parties interested [in the job of ceo]."

Of the consortium bid, Knight observes: "The message that has been lost during this entire discussion in that we are not rejecting the price per se, but the process, which does not given us any confidence. There is no benchmark against which we can judge the offer."

KR has also tabled a resolution for VNU's annual meeting in April requesting the appointment of its chairman to VNU's supervisory board.

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