During the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, the time was not for the peace of the brave in French capitalism. The Lagardère group, owner of Hachette, Europe 1, or Paris Match, will be the scene of a new confrontation between Amber, its largest shareholder, with 16.4%, and its boss, Arnaud Lagardère, holder of 7.3% of the capital.
The British activist fund, which has been scrapping for three years to accelerate the refocusing of the group on two main trades, the travel retail (airport and duty free shops) and Hachette, are preparing a palace revolution during the May 5 general assembly. He filed resolutions asking for the outright dismissal of the entire Lagardère supervisory board, holding that he had not fulfilled his role as “Counter power”.
Instead, it proposes the nomination of eight new members, all “Independent of Lagardère and Amber”, including Brigitte Taittinger-Jouyet, former patron of perfumes Annick Goutal and director of Suez and Fnac Darty, Enrico Letta, former president of the Italian Council, and, above all, Patrick Sayer, who was the patron of the investment company Eurazeo, and that Amber wants to see him head of the board.
“I know Joseph Oughourlian [le fondateur d’Amber], which has been a loyal and long-term shareholder of Eurazeo. And I’ve been interested in the group for a long time, for example, when I had the opportunity to be a candidate to buy Editis. I have known Arnaud Lagardère for almost twenty years ”, justifies to the World Patrick Sayer, now a director of Eurazeo and Valeo.
Surprised, Amber said, however, favorable to the appointment of Nicolas Sarkozy and the former president of SNCF Guillaume Pepy, the two new directors that Arnaud Lagardère will propose during the assembly. However, the choice of the former President of the Republic, who has long had good relations with Qatar, the group’s second shareholder with 13% of the capital, had been interpreted as a call for help from Mr. Lagardère faced to Amber’s assaults.
Bitter failure two years ago
With only 16.4% of the capital, how can Amber achieve its goals? Two years ago, the fund had already tried to join the supervisory board and had a bitter failure. According to Mr. Sayer, some large investors would have been sensitive to the need to develop the group. “This assembly is the hour of truth: either we make things happen, or we continue on a declining slope. And it would be a shame, because there are two very beautiful assets in the company, Hachette and the travel retail “, says Patrick Sayer.