Bolloré vows to fight on for Aegis board seats

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The Independent Online

The French financier Vincent Bolloré has refused to throw in the towel in his fight for representation on the board of the advertising firm Aegis despite increasing shareholder opposition to his demands and and extraordinary general meeting yesterday.

Mr Bolloré said he would "definitely" convene another EGM in two to three months to try to get his two nominated independent directors, Roger Hatchuel and Phillipe Germond, onto the board of the UK company. He suggested that the battle could go on for years, with further EGMs called until he gets his way.

He aims to meet other Aegis shareholders to convince them that he is a long-term investor and that his two nominees are genuinely independent and will act as "new blood" on the advertising company's board.

Mr Bolloré also accused the Aegis board, led by its chairman Lord Sharman, of refusing to discuss the nominations with him.

"We are not on speaking terms. I do not think it is healthy and worthwhile [for the board] to be in such a relationship with the largest shareholder of the company. For a communications group, it is not a good reference," Mr Bolloré said.

Aegis rebuffed that claim, saying it offered to meet Groupe Bolloré some weeks ago and that the French company attended an investor summit last week.

Aegis has opposed the nomination of Mr Bolloré's representatives due to his position as chairman of the rival advertising firm Havas. Aegis argues that his role at the French company creates a conflict of interest given that the two firms compete against each other.

Yet Mr Bolloré, who holds a 29 per cent stake in Aegis via his Groupe Bolloré investment vehicle, argues it his right to seek representation on the board after he has spent €600m (£405m) building his stake.

Shareholders representing 94.2 per cent of votes cast that were not controlled by Groupe Bolloré rejected resolutions to appoint Mr Bolloré's nominees to the Aegis board at the meeting yesterday. Although the result was expected, the level of support for the Aegis board's rejection was slightly higher than when the resolutions were originally proposed in June.

Lord Sharman said the result illustrated the "strength of shareholder feeling on an important corporate governance principle". He said that the board's decision to reject Mr Bolloré's demands were based on "a point of principle, not personality".

Mr Bolloré said many investors had rejected his proposals as they believed he wanted to take over company. He did not rule out a bid for Aegis but said: "Our target for Aegis is to keep it independent."

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