Corporate Raider Could Block Certain Shareholder Voting

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NEW YORK ( -- Vincent Bollore's grip on Aegis Group is nearing a stranglehold. The French industrialist and Havas chairman is on the verge of reaching a 25% stake in the London-based company, increasing his stake to 24.97% late last week. At 25%, Mr. Bollore would have the ability to block some types of votes put before shareholders.

As Mr. Bollore continues to buy shares of Aegis, WPP Group, partnered with private equity firm Hellman & Friedman, has been exploring a bid for Aegis. According to the U.K. Takeover Panel, WPP and Hellman have until Nov. 25 to declare their intentions.

'Terrific position'
"He’s in a terrific position now. Anyone who is looking at that business has to come to him. He’s the playmaker," said Chris Ingram, founding partner of marketing communications consultancy Igram and the former CEO of the media agency Tempus Group, which he sold several years ago to WPP Group. "Without having taken control of either Havas or Aegis, he can chose now whether to break up the business and sell certain pieces to agency groups or to the highest bidder; he can sell to private equity groups or he can keep the business himself and create a viable agency group."

One Aegis observer downplayed Mr. Bollore’s ascent to near 25%. "It may seem like big news, but in fact not too much has changed since his stake was in the high teens," the person said.

Mr. Bollore, head of Bollore Group, which has interests in companies in various industries, from plastic films and thin paper to fuel distribution and media, is also chairman of advertising holding company Havas. He began purchasing shares of Aegis, which is the parent company of media-buying agencies Carat and Vizeum and research unit Synovate, in August. His stake has steadily increased almost daily since then.

Next level: 30%
Under U.K. law, any shareholder with 29.9% of a company is required to make a takeover bid. Mr. Bollore is not expected to do that. His usual tactic is to acquire a non-controlling interest that is substantial enough to gain a board's attention and prevent any activities of which he does not approve. Mr. Bollore is believed to be in favor of keeping Aegis independent and creating some sort of joint venture with Aegis to bolster Havas’ media buying and planning operations.

A spokesman for Mr. Bollore did not return a call this morning.

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