Call it a corporate coup d’état, to borrow a fitting French phrase.
Paris-based media conglomerate Vivendi said Thursday it will launch a takeover bid for a controlling stake in fellow French media conglomerate Lagardère “in the coming days,” to be followed by a bid for the full company early next year. The move comes after Vivendi spent much of the past two years becoming Lagardère’s largest shareholder, and concludes a tug-of-war between some of Europe’s wealthiest individuals.
Billionaire Battle Royale
The saga for control over Lagardère may as well have been scripted by the writers of HBO’s Succession. Vivendi, led by French billionaire Vincent Bolloré, acquired a 10.6% stake in Lagardère in April 2020. Soon after, Bolloré helped Chief Executive Arnaud Lagardère stave off a board overhaul of his family’s company by activist fund Amber Capital. But the alliance ended there.
Vivendi rapidly increased its stake to 29%. And in September, the company said it would acquire the 17.5% stake owned by Amber, now its ally. The deal leaves Vivendi poised to complete a takeover:
- After the acquisition, Vivendi will own 45.1% of Lagardère’s capital, as well as 36.1% of the company’s voting rights.
- Vivendi has acquired a total of 24.7 million shares at $27.27 per share, and says it will propose a tender offer for all Lagardère shares at the same price in February—a deal that would value all of Legardere at roughly $3.85 billion.
Lagardère generated nearly $5 billion in revenue in 2020.
Media Monopoly: Control of Lagardère gives Vivendi ownership over the influential Paris Match magazine, newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche, radio station Europe 1, and book publisher Hachette—home to authors like Malcolm Gladwell and David Baldacci.
Already, Vivendi owns Canal Plus, the largest pay-TV channel in France, as well as 24-hour news station CNews. Control of Lagardère properties gives Bolloré massive influence in April’s presidential election, in which CNews’ host and pundit Éric Zemmour is quickly becoming a serious candidate.