Raider storms Havas board, shadowing Euro RSCG Life
French corporate raider Vincent Bollore has captured four seats on the board of Havas, throwing a shadow over the future of the holding company, which includes one of the biggest names in medical advertising, Euro RSCG Life.
Bollore won 59.31 percent of shareholder votes, allowing him to seat himself and three deputies on the company's 18-person board. Bollore, who holds 20 percent of the company's shares, said recently that he would remain a minority shareholder and that he is in it for the long haul. The vote nonetheless comes as a blow to chairman and chief executive Alain de Pouzilhac, who has sworn to maintain Havas' independence and called Bollore's encroachment a "creeping takeover."
Bollore's advance stirred speculation of a breakup of the company, which has slipped behind rivals Omnicom, WPP, Interpublic and Publicis as it was shut out of the recent binge of consolidation in the advertising world. Most recently, Havas lost out to WPP in its bid for Grey Global Group, which was complicated by Bollore's opposition to an acquisition. Bollore has also criticized foreign investments that the French company has made.
In addition to Euro RSCG Life, thought to be the world's fourth-largest medical advertising firm, Havas, the world's fifth-largest marketing company, includes two mainline advertising networks – Euro RSCG and Arnold Partners – along with Media Planning Group, a media buying and planning network.