Vincent Bolloré, whose investment company Bolloré Médias Investissements has built a 20.4% stake in global marketing services holding company Havas, insists he is Monsieur Propre with regard to his intentions for the agency giant.
In an interview last Friday with Paris newspaper Le Monde, Bolloré's hands were raided aloft in innocent protestation: "It is out of the question that we will make a public offer for Havas," he said.
"We are not sellers. We are here for the long-term, whatever happens. Talking to the competition does not mean you are willing to sell them your stake."
'The competition' is a reference to cosy chats he is known to have had with WPP Group's Sir Martin Sorrell [WAMN: 25-Apr-05]. But Bolloré is strangely eager to underscore that his interest is solely that of a benevolent investor.
"We said from the start that we did not want to take control of Havas. We are minority shareholders, we want to hold between 20% and 30% of its capital and to exercise our rights," Bolloré said. He did, however, promise to clarify his intentions at Havas' annual meeting on June 9.
So why does he seek four seats on the Havas board - a request denied him by the agency group - if not to influence the company's strategy?
"When you invest €500 million ($611.35m; £337.41m) in a business, it is natural to want to defend your rights. I will go in person to the shareholders' meeting … to explain my position before the other shareholders."
But Bolloré's stance toward Havas chairman/ceo Alain de Pouzilhac, who has constantly expressed suspicion towards his intentions, is dismissive.
"If Alain de Pouzilhac wants to resign, if our representatives are elected, there are talented managers both inside and outside the firm to replace him," quoth the raider. "The important thing is that this quarrel ends. What interests me is the future of Havas."
Data sourced from MediaGuardian.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff