It is an important page in the history of the Lagardère group that is turning, but it is undoubtedly not the end of the ambitions which agitate its main shareholders, in the first place Vincent Bolloré, the strong man of Vivendi, and Bernard Arnault, the founder of LVMH.
Arnaud Lagardère announced on Wednesday April 28 that he had reached an agreement with them to end the legal structure of a limited partnership, which allowed him to control the company with only 7% of the capital and 11% of the voting rights. This special status was set up in 1992 by his father Jean-Luc Lagardère (who died in 2003), in order to avoid losing control of his empire after the bankruptcy of the television channel La 5.
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The media group (Europe 1, Paris Match, The JDD) and edition (Hachette), which also owns the Relay stores in stations and airports, will once again become a traditional limited company (SA).
Arnaud Lagardère becomes CEO
Arnaud Lagardère sold his skin dearly. The current general manager will be the CEO for a six-year term and can only be removed by a two-thirds majority of the board of directors, ie by eight out of eleven members. Ditto for a possible reduction in his remuneration, said the press release.
In exchange for the loss of his full powers, he will also receive 10 million shares (for a total value of 240 million euros at the current price), which will allow him to have around 7% of additional capital.
Very criticized for its management, in particular by the Amber Capital fund, with which he also signed an armistice, the founder’s son, very indebted, had little choice. Hard hit by the pandemic, Lagardère recorded a loss of 660 million euros last year.
The prospect of dismantling has not disappeared
Above all, Arnaud Lagardère has to deal with cumbersome shareholders, whose barely veiled objectives aim to get their hands on various group assets. Vivendi is eyeing Hachette, which it would bring together with its subsidiary Editis to create a global publishing giant, but also Europe 1, which could find synergies with the Canal + channels, a scenario rather frowned upon at the Élysée.
Already owner of Echoes and Parisian, Bernard Arnault, who had entered the capital of Lagardère last year to counter the ambitions of Vincent Bolloré, could in turn be interested in the group’s media center.
In short, the vast game of lying poker is far from over, and the various protagonists will eventually reveal their cards. For many observers, the signed agreement would aim above all to preserve the integrity of the group until the presidential election, even if nothing is certain. “It was Nicolas Sarkozy who made sure that everyone came to an agreement”, assures a source close to Arnaud Lagardère. The former head of state has been on the group’s supervisory board since February 2020.
Close balance of power within the board
The balance found is fragile. Vivendi consolidates its position as Lagardère’s largest shareholder with 27% of the capital (22% of the voting rights) and three board positions ahead of Amber (18% of the shares, 15% of the voting rights and one director) and Qatar (12% of the voting rights). % of capital and 19% of voting rights), Lagardère (14% in capital and 16% respectively) and Bernard Arnault (7% and 6%). However, in the past, Vincent Bolloré has shown his know-how in terms of takeovers.
In a convoluted formula, the group explains in a press release that specific measures could be put in place “To prevent any transmission of sensitive information and to restrict participation in certain deliberations” directors appointed by shareholders who control competing activities. Atmosphere.