Lagardere extends CEO’s tenure despite shareholder pressure

FILE PHOTO: Arnaud Lagardere, the head of French media group Lagardere, attends the group’s shareholders meeting in Paris, France, May 3, 2018. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

August 18, 2020

PARIS (Reuters) – French media group Lagardere’s board extended its managing partner Arnaud Lagardere’s tenure for four more years, pushing back against shareholder pressure for new leadership by moving ahead with the renewal ahead of schedule.

Shares in the group, which publishes titles including Paris Match and has been under fire over its performance from some of its investors, dropped sharply in early trading on Tuesday and were down 5.18% at 0741 GMT.

The board also approved a new “strategic roadmap”, which will focus on the group’s travel retail and publishing divisions as growth drivers and be overseen by a newly enlarged management board, Lagardere said in a statement on Monday evening.

The supervisory board gave Arnaud Lagardere’s four-year renewal the green light “in order to stabilise the group’s governance in a period without precedent,” the company said.

His previous mandate had only been due to expire in March 2021, but his position had become a bone of contention among the firm’s top shareholders, including activist fund Amber Capital.

The fund, which now owns 20% of the company, has pushed for change for several years, including to an arcane “commandite” structure allowing Arnaud Lagardere, son of founder Jean-Luc Lagardere, to control the company through a holding of just 7%.

The shareholder drama has taken in a new dimension in recent months, with LVMH boss and billionaire Bernard Arnault stepping in to back Arnaud Lagardere with an investment in his family office.

French billionaire Vincent Bollore, meanwhile, whose Vivendi owns 23.5% of Lagardere, struck a pact with Amber in August to press joint demands for four board seats.

Divisions other than publishing and travel retail include strong brands and will be managed “in order to optimise their value”, Monday’s statement said, without elaborating.

However the board also reaffirmed its commitment to “the integrity of the group” in the face of what it described as “destabilization attempts” and “dismantlement ambitions”.

(Reporting by Laurence Frost, Marc Angrand and Sarah White; Editing by Marguerita Choy and David Evans)

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