Aegis Strengthens Effort to Reject Bollore Again

Major Shareholders Back Letter to Stop Havas Chairman's Power Play

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LONDON (AdAge.com) -- Aegis Group has secured the backing of major shareholders in its battle to keep Vincent Bollore, chairman of rival communications group Havas, off the Aegis board of directors.
Vincent Bollore
Vincent Bollore Credit: AP

Mr. Bollore, whose Bollore Group owns 29% of Aegis Group shares, is making a second attempt to gain two seats on the Aegis board at an Extraordinary General Meeting scheduled for Nov. 22.

Full support from 23%
But Aegis stepped up its campaign against Mr. Bollore today with the announcement that it has the full support of 11 institutional shareholders that together account for more than 23% of its shares. The named institutions are Fidelity International, Standard Life, Henderson Global Investors, Hermes and Aberdeen Asset Management.

The company said six additional large shareholders have also backed a public letter addressed to the Aegis board that says they "regret" the company is being obliged to face the same resolutions again so soon after they were raised at Aegis' annual general meeting six months ago.

The letter states, "We retain our previous view that the resolutions are not in the interests of the company's shareholders as a whole and should be voted against. Board nominations by a shareholder who has significant influence at a direct competitor ... are not appropriate, no matter how large that shareholder's interest in the company."

Mr. Bollore could not immediately be reached for comment.

At the Aegis annual general meeting June 14, 45% of shareholders voted against Mr. Bollore's two candidates for the board, Roger Hatchuel and Philippe Germond. That amounted to 94% of all votes not controlled by Groupe Bollore being cast against the resolution.

Frustration and expense
Colin Sharman, chairman of Aegis, said, "It is highly unusual for institutional shareholders to express their view so publicly, uniformly and clearly, well ahead of a vote. This reflects the strength of their feeling on the point of principle involved, as well as their frustration at the time and expense for all parties so soon after" the annual general meeting.

He stressed in the same statement that 70% of the group's shares are in the hands of investors other than Bollore Group and again urged shareholders to vote against the resolutions.

Aegis Group owns media agencies Carat and Vizeum, digital network Isobar and research company Synovate.

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Lisa Sanders contributed to this report.
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