August 4, 2021

Arnaud Lagardère, calm before the storm

Eighteen years later, he’s still there, smiling, almost offhand. The air of an eternal teenager, even if his 60 years begin to mark this youthful look. From the huge office in rue de Presbourg, a stone’s throw from the Arc de Triomphe, Arnaud Lagardère is preparing to turn an important page in the history of his group, which covers Hachette, Europe 1, Paris Match, the JDD and airport and train station shops (“travel retail”). After a year of a Homeric battle against two ogres of French capitalism, Vincent Bolloré and Bernard Arnault, and a turbulent activist fund, Amber Capital, Jean-Luc’s only son managed to sign a peace treaty on April 28. And to remain at the head of the group for six more years. At a significant price to pay.

From Wednesday, the group becomes “operable”: its capital is split between shareholders who can sell large blocks of securities at any time.

On Wednesday, June 30, the general meeting of shareholders must vote the end of the sponsorship, this fortress set up by the father, after the bankruptcy of the television channel La Cinq, which made it entrenched. Does the leader have a pang in his heart? “I’m getting used to it pretty well. I even have the feeling of getting a little more into the taste of good governance ”, he says, seated at his large meeting table, in the middle of an improbable decoration, which mixes thick rococo-style curtains, Renaissance armchairs and jerseys of the Chicago Bulls basketball players. “Before 1992, we had shareholders, some nice, some less nice, well the normal life of a business leader. We survived it ”, he puts into perspective, emphasizing the great financial transaction he is carrying out. The sale of the sponsorship earns him an additional 7%. It increases it from 7% to 14% of the group’s capital in its name.

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also Arnaud Lagardère renounces sponsorship, Vincent Bolloré new strongman of the group

Despite this assurance, Arnaud Lagardère does not forget that this agreement projects the group into an uncertain future. From Wednesday, it becomes “operable”: its capital is split between shareholders who can at any time sell large blocks of securities, putting it at the mercy of predators. Vivendi, with its bulky first shareholder, Vincent Bolloré, will own 27%, Amber, who tried to dislodge it in 2020, 18%, Qatar 12%, and Bernard Arnault at least 7%. “Nothing can guarantee that people will stay. It’s total freedom ”, recognizes Arnaud Lagardère. “But the idea, even for Amber, is, once we write a new story together, not to go out for several years. “ He wants to convince them that if they continue by his side, Lagardère’s capitalization can grow by “2 to 3 billion, if publishing continues its momentum and travel retail is recovering and regains its pre-2019 levels. The course would drop from 20 to 40 euros ».

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