Ubisoft Founders Victorious as Vivendi Board Bid Is Averted

  • Temporary respite for founders seeking to keep independence
  • Billionaire Bollore’s Vivendi signals it will return

Ubisoft Entertainment SA’s founding Guillemot family won at least a temporary victory at the game-maker’s annual meeting when activist investor Vivendi SA, which is seeking board seats, held back from a direct confrontation.

Vivendi, which is Ubisoft’s largest shareholder, made no proposals at the gathering Thursday in Bagnolet, near Paris. The French media company abstained from voting, taking credit for sinking four minor company proposals, and Vivendi Chairman Vincent Bollore didn’t attend.

During the months-long resistance campaign, the Guillemots lobbied for the backing of other investors, gathering key allies and rallying employees to wear T-shirts to the meeting declaring statements of support. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Yves Guillemot argued that Vivendi, which wants to expand beyond music, film and television, is a competitor and shouldn’t be on the board. He said that Ubisoft would welcome outside investors but Vivendi should take its winnings -- the shares are up 27 percent this year -- and walk away.

“We won an important battle for the company,” Ubisoft Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Yves Guillemot said to reporters at the event. “There has been massive support from other shareholders of the company.”

Bollore has gained a reputation for aggressive tactics, winning control of Havas SA a decade ago and another Guillemot company, Gameloft SE, earlier this year. While standing down Thursday, Vivendi signaled it’s not done. In a statement, the company said good governance suggests its 23 percent voting stake warrants board representation. It said it’s a long-term holder and that it will have double-voting status starting in 2017.

“Having taken full control of Gameloft, which employs 6,000 people and is experiencing satisfactory growth, Vivendi will pursue its strategy in video games,” the company said.

A motion to renew Yves Guillemot’s administrator mandate was approved.

Ubisoft, maker of Assassin’s Creed and The Division, fell 1.2 percent to 33.95 euros at the close of trading in Paris. Vivendi, owner of Universal Music Group and Canal Plus film and television, advanced 0.7 percent to 17.93 euros.

In recent months, Guillemots have challenged Vivendi’s arguments for synergies between Ubisoft and the media company. The family boosted its Ubisoft stake to just under 20 percent of voting rights and gained other shareholders’ support, arguing that Ubisoft can offer better returns alone than as a unit of Vivendi.

“We cannot conceive of having Vivendi on the board as they are competitors in many ways,” CEO Guillemot said. “Vivendi would prevent Ubisoft from being agile.”

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