Bolloré resigned to defeat in battle with Aegis board

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The Independent Online

Vincent Bolloré, the majority shareholder in the advertising group Aegis, admitted yesterday he would probably lose the vote for two board seats at tomorrow's annual meeting, but was determined to fight on in his push for representation.

Mr Bolloré, who chairs the French advertising group Havas, said: "We don't have much hope of being appointed." He has built a 29 per cent stake in Aegis through his Groupe Bolloré investment vehicle, and has demanded two seats on the British company's board.

The French corporate raider wants to combine Aegis with Havas, or at least forge an alliance with the French group's media buying business, MPG. It is not clear what form any tie-up would take: while Mr Bolloré has said he would consider raising his stake to 30 per cent, which would force him to make a bid for the UK group, he sent a letter to the Aegis chairman last week in which he emphasised the importance of Aegis remaining independent. For now, Mr Bolloré is focused on winning the two board seats, which would help him to push for an alliance between Aegis and MPG.

Aegis has urged shareholders to vote against Mr Bolloré's nominations at its meeting, claiming he had a "severe conflict of interest" due to his role as a major shareholder and chairman of Havas. Mr Bolloré rejected these arguments, stressing he was in Aegis for the long term and that "all options are open".

Even if he is unsuccessful with his push for board representation tomorrow, he has vowed to go back to other shareholders to persuade them of the merits of the nominations. Under British law, investors owning more than 5 per cent in a company can call for an extraordinary meeting at any time.

Aegis owns Europe's biggest media buying business, Carat, and there has been speculation that Mr Bolloré is eyeing an alliance between Carat and MPG. Media buying is a hot area in the advertising industry as companies look for the most efficient way to spend their marketing budgets.