Bollore Fails to Win Seat on Aegis Board for Fifth Time

'Conflict of Interest' Attempt Called a 'Total Farce'

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LONDON ( -- Vincent Bollore's attempts to win seats on the Aegis Group's board failed for a fifth time at the company's annual general meeting in London today, where one shareholder spoke out against the "total farce" of Mr. Bollore's mission.
Vincent Bollore
Vincent Bollore Credit: AP

Of non-Groupe Bollore shareholders, 91% voted against Mr. Bollore's proposal to elect two of his representatives -- French advertising veteran Roger Hatchuel and telecom executive Philippe Germond -- to the board.

Mr. Bollore, a French financier and chairman of Groupe Bollore, is the largest single shareholder in Aegis Group, with 29.9% of shares, just under the 30% that would require him to make a bid for the company under U.K. laws. He is also chairman of rival French media group Havas, in which he owns 32.9% of shares.

'Matter of regret'
Aegis Group Chairman Lord Sharman opened the company's meeting in London this morning by saying, "It is a matter of regret that Groupe Bollore defies the wish of the vast majority of shareholders. Groupe Bollore is the largest shareholder in Havas, our competitor. This is a fundamental conflict of interest."

Mr. Bollore failed to show up and make his now-familiar attempt to win over shareholders to his point of view, turning on his Gallic charm as he has done at past votes. One of his representatives said he had "other stuff" to do.

Instead, attendees at the meeting heard from Clive Sasserath, who described himself as an "ordinary shareholder." He stood up to ask the assembled Aegis Group board whether there were "any means at our disposal to stop the total farce of the French shareholders constantly trying to appoint two directors to the board?"

No stopping it
Aegis Chairman Colin Sharman replied, "The short answer is no. English company law requires that we put his resolutions to shareholders."

Mr. Sasserath's anti-French comments are at odds with Aegis' own roots. The company started in Paris 40 years ago, in the turbulent and historic year of 1968.

"Shareholders have shown that they are absolutely against the appointment," Mr. Sasserath continued. "The time, effort and cost to the executive team and the annoyance to the shareholders is a total waste." He also pointed out that Havas' financial results are poor in comparison with Aegis' results.

Havas' slow growth
Havas revenue in 2007 grew by 4.1%, which is the slowest of all the major global advertising holding-companies. Aegis grew by 11.1% last year. Post-tax profits at Havas were $118 million, behind Aegis' $180 million.

There has been speculation that Mr. Bollore might make a bid for Aegis Group, which he would fund by selling off market-research arm Synovate to WPP Group. However, WPP's recent bids for TNS suggest that WPP Chief Executive Martin Sorrell is not hanging around for a deal with Mr. Bollore.

Aegis Media recently forced out its global CEO, Mainardo de Nardis, after two years in the job. He was replaced by Jerry Buhlmann, who was promoted from CEO of Aegis Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

The move followed last month's restructuring that saw the departure of David Verklin, Aegis Media Americas CEO.

Mr. Sharman said, "Our shareholders have overwhelmingly rejected the Groupe Bollore resolutions five times in two years. It is our hope that Groupe Bollore will finally respect shareholder democracy and good corporate governance."
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