French billionaires plan truce in battle for media group Lagardère – sources

Two of France’s richest businessmen are close to a deal on media and publishing company Lagardère (LAGA.PA) that would put their attempts to select its assets on hold for several years, said on Sunday. three sources close to the discussions.

Vincent Bolloré, Lagardère’s largest shareholder via his Vivendi group, and luxury magnate Bernard Arnault, also a Lagardère investor, have been at the center of a fight around the company and its influential media for months.

The saga pierced major political circles in France a year before a presidential election, with some members of President Emmanuel Macron’s camp fearing that Bolloré could seize assets like Lagardère’s Europe 1 radio station and create a powerful communication network that would go to l against his campaign. Read more

The three sources close to the talks said that Bolloré, boss of LVMH (LVMH.PA) Arnault and CEO of Lagardère, Arnaud Lagardere, are finalizing a deal that would include a five-year pact not to dismantle the business.

Details of the deal and shareholder alliances as well as what will happen to some of Lagardère’s assets, such as Europe 1 and the Journal du Dimanche (JDD), have not yet been finalized, the employees added. people.

They warned the deal has yet to be signed and talks could end at the last minute.

Lagardère is due to hold a board meeting on Monday, the sources said.

Arnaud Lagardère, who heads the indebted company founded by his late father, would be ready to abandon an obscure “sponsorship” structure as part of the operation, added the three sources.

This setup gave him veto power over many key decisions despite holding only 7% of the shares, and had been a major obstacle to any attempt to take over the company.

ARNAUD AT THE BAR

The “sponsorship” has been the target of criticism from the hedge fund Amber Capital, which has led a militant campaign against Lagardère’s management over its governance.

Vivendi owns 27% of Lagardère, ahead of Amber with 20% and the Qatar sovereign wealth fund with 13%, while Bernard Arnault owns just under 8% and has also invested in Arnaud Lagardere’s personal holding.

“This agreement would help to clarify the governance problem. There were two levels before, now there will be only one,” said one of the people close to the talks.

However, it is not yet clear how the pact can be cemented to avoid takeover bids on Lagardère, including by Vivendi, and whether there will be exit clauses. Sources have previously said that Amber and the Qataris are keen to sell themselves eventually.

As part of the deal being discussed, Bolloré could be a big winner. Vivendi could get three seats on Lagardere’s board of directors, one of the sources said.

Arnaud Lagardère could run the company for five years, the three sources said. Les Echos newspaper reported on Saturday that its stake could also be increased to 14%.

Bernard Arnault had been keen to seize the JDD newspaper or the Paris Match magazine, sources previously told Reuters.

The truce would at least meet one of the billionaire’s goals, which was to help Arnaud Lagardère keep his post at the top and avoid a complete break up of the group, another source close to the talks said.

Arnault’s investment has so far paid off, the second source said.

Bernard Arnault was a close friend of the company’s founder, Jean-Luc Lagardère.

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