French billionaires eye truce in battle for Lagardere media group
© Reuters. The emblem of French media group Lagardere is seen on the group’s shareholders assembly in Paris
By Sarah White and Gwénaëlle Barzic
PARIS (Reuters) – Two of France’s richest businessmen are near a deal over media and publishing firm Lagardere that might hit pause on their makes an attempt to cherry-pick its belongings for a number of years, three sources near the discussions stated on Sunday.
Vincent Bollore, the highest shareholder in Lagardere through his Vivendi (OTC:) group, and luxurious items tycoon Bernard Arnault, additionally a Lagardere investor, have been on the centre of a tussle over the agency and its influential media shops for months.
The saga has transfixed high political circles in France a 12 months forward of a presidential election, with some in President Emmanuel Macron’s camp fearing that Bollore may seize belongings like Lagardere’s Europe 1 radio and construct up a robust ring-wing outlet that might go in opposition to his marketing campaign.
The three sources aware of the talks stated that Bollore, LVMH boss Arnault and Lagardere’s CEO Arnaud Lagardere are finalizing a deal that would come with a five-year pact to not dismantle the corporate.
The main points of the settlement and shareholder alliances in addition to what would occur to some Lagardere belongings, comparable to Europe 1 and the Journal du Dimanche (JDD) newspaper, haven’t but been finalised, the folks added.
They cautioned that the deal had not but been signed and that the talks may come off the boil on the final minute.
Lagardere is because of maintain a board assembly on Monday, the sources stated.
Arnaud Lagardere, who runs the indebted firm based by his late father, could be able to let go of an arcane “commandite” construction as a part of the deal, the three sources added.
That set-up gave him the facility of veto over many key choices regardless of holding solely 7% of the shares, and had been a serious impediment to any takeover makes an attempt of the corporate.
ARNAUD AT THE HELM
The “commandite” has been the goal of criticism from hedge fund Amber Capital, which has waged an activist marketing campaign in opposition to Lagardere’s administration over its governance.
Vivendi holds 27% of Lagardere, forward of Amber with 20% and Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund with 13%, whereas Bernard Arnault has slightly below 8% and has additionally invested in Arnaud Lagardere’s private holding firm.
“This deal would assist make clear the governance downside. There have been two layers earlier than, now there would solely be one,” one of many folks near the talks stated.
It isn’t but clear, nevertheless, how the pact might be cemented to keep away from takeover bids on Lagardere, together with by Vivendi, and whether or not there shall be get-out clauses. Sources have beforehand stated that Amber and the Qataris are eager to ultimately promote out.
Underneath the deal being mentioned, Bollore could possibly be a giant winner. Vivendi may get three Lagardere board seats, one of many sources stated.
Arnaud Lagardere would get to run the corporate for 5 years, the three supply stated. Les Echos newspaper reported on Saturday that his stake is also elevated to 14%.
Bernard Arnault had been eager to snap up the JDD newspaper or Paris Match journal, sources beforehand informed Reuters.
The truce would at the very least meet one of many billionaire’s targets, which had been to assist Arnaud Lagardere preserve his job on the high and keep away from a full break-up of the group, one other of the sources aware of the talks stated.
Arnault’s funding has thus far been worthwhile, this second supply stated.
Bernard Arnault had been an in depth buddy of the corporate’s founder, Jean-Luc Lagardere.
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