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HAVAS REJECTS BOLLORE'S BID FOR BOARD SEATS

Suspense Heightens as June Shareholders Meeting Approaches

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The board of French holding company Havas has unanimously rejected Vincent Bollore's bid to add four seats to the board.

In an action taken last week, the board also recommended that shareholders at next month's meeting say no to the corporate raider's attempts to strengthen his hold on the company.

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Mr. Bollore is Havas' largest shareholder.

20% stake
He is well-known in France and in the global financial community for buying stakes in undervalued companies, pressing for management change and then selling his holdings at a profit. Since he started buying shares of Havas last summer, Mr. Bollore, through an entity called Bollore Medias Investissements, now owns 20% of the agency holding company.

Havas is the parent of advertising agencies Arnold Worldwide and Euro RSCG Worldwide, as well as media buying and planning agency MPG.

Shareholders meet June 9
Mr. Bollore on April 22 requested four seats on Havas' board of directors. Shareholders are scheduled to vote on the request, which the board rejected, at Havas' annual meeting, scheduled for June 9, in Paris.

The board in a statement said its vote was due to reticence from Mr. Bollore and Bollore Medias Investissements to provide details on the nature of their interest in Havas. Since last winter, Havas' chairman-CEO, Alain de Pouzilhac, has pressed Mr. Bollore on whether he is a long-term shareholder or a short-term investor. In explaining its move, Havas said Mr. Bollore failed to reply to a Dec. 14 letter asking for such information. Moreover, the April 22 request for board seats provided no explanation on the strategy behind the request that "would enlighten shareholders ... and enable them to make a fully informed judgment on the consequences of Board representation."

Careful in its dealings
Havas management during the past six months has been increasingly careful in its dealings with Mr. Bollore. Speaking to analysts in September, Mr. de Pouzilhac described Mr. Bollore as a shareholder who offers "potentially a factor of stability for Havas" and said that his request for board representation would be considered.

In the months that since then, relations between the two men became strained, as Havas management pressed for more information and Mr. Bollore has offered little in return. Speculation is rife that Mr. Bollore will eventually sell his stake to another publicly traded holding company, which may lead to an eventual breakup of Havas.

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