Owns 25% of Company, But Cites Conflict of Interest

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NEW YORK ( -- Vincent Bollore, the French industrialist and chairman of Havas who has been buying shares of Aegis Group since August, today said he has not asked for seats on Aegis’ board.
Photo: AP
Vincent Bollore said he will not seek a seat for himself on the Aegis board but deflected questions about seats for his associates.
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Cites conflict
Mr. Bollore, through Financiere du Loch, a unit of his company, Bollore Group, owns 25.05% of Aegis. Speaking about board representation for his interests in the media company generally, Mr. Bollore said that he would not seek a seat for himself. “I consider that is a conflict of interest,” he said in a telephone interview. “I definitely would not ask for myself.”

As for whether he would ask Aegis’ board to give representatives of his Bollore Group seats, Mr. Bollore said, “For the moment, we have not had those conversations.”

U.K. rules
In the U.K., new directors are asked to join a company’s board by the current directors. Aegis’ board, according to one executive familiar with management’s thinking, is unlikely to ask Mr. Bollore to join because he is a major shareholder in and chairman of a strategic competitor. The board’s responsibility, this person said, is to represent the interests of all of its shareholders. In the U.K., there is no level at which a shareholder automatically gets onto a company’s board.

Speculation about Mr. Bollore’s intentions regarding Aegis in recent days has focused on whether he will increase his shareholding to 30%, at which point he is required under U.K. law to make an offer for Aegis. In November, he had discussions with WPP Group and private-equity firm Hellman & Friedman about forming a consortium to make a bid for Aegis, but the decision was ultimately made by WPP and Hellman not to go ahead with an offer.

Havan and Aegis
Havas management has long said that it wants to bolster MPG, its media-buying unit, and over the years Havas’ management has had discussion with various media agencies about creating joint ventures. Mr. Bollore said that before he began buying Aegis shares this summer, Aegis was keen to have a joint venture with Havas. An Aegis spokeswoman didn’t return a call for comment.

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