Ubisoft: "We won't relax until they sell their shares"
UPDATE: Ubi succeeds in adding two new independent directors to the board, and reelects Yves and Gerard Guillemot
Update: At its annual general meeting, Ubisoft claimed victory over Vivendi for now. A spokesperson commented, “Today during our Annual General Meeting, Ubisoft shareholders expressed massive support for Ubisoft's strategy and management. We remain focused on the execution of our strategic roadmap, which has already proven successful and which we are confident will continue to deliver great results and value for all of Ubisoft's stakeholders. We're also very happy to welcome two new independent directors, Frederique Dame and Florence Naviner, who will bring their expertise and know-how to Ubisoft's Board.”
Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot and Ubisoft Motion Picture CEO Gerard Guillemot were both reelected to the board as well, meaning that the board now has five founding members and five independent directors. Vivendi had hoped to exert its influence on Ubisoft by getting its board members elected, but now the hostile takeover route seems like an option to pursue if the French conglomerate is adamant about gaining control. Citing "company insiders," Polygon is reporting that Vivendi is still likely to pursue a takeover. Meanwhile, Ubisoft is said to be in talks with other game publishers to seek potential support.
Yves Guillemot is not only unhappy with Vivendi seeking a potential takeover of Ubisoft; he doesn't want the French conglomerate to own a single share of the company's stock.
Ubisoft's annual general meeting is today, and the company expects Vivendi to make a bid for representation on its board of directors - another step in a strategy that could lead to Vivendi turning its 23% stake into a full takeover. According to a new report from The Wall Street Journal, that is what Ubisoft's executives fear, and CEO Yves Guillemot is taking an unequivocal stance on how he wants the matter to be resolved.
"We won't relax until they sell their shares," Guillemot said. "The creeping control strategy implemented by Vivendi is dangerous. We think that there's a great risk of shareholders losing value."
For Ubisoft, today's AGM is clearly just one skirmish within a larger battle. An anonymous source within Ubisoft said that, "we knew last year that we would have to win the [annual general meeting] and to do that we had to get shareholder support."
Guillemot and Ubisoft's executive team have been doing just that ever since Vivendi started raising its stake in the company last year. Gameloft, which was also founded by the Guillemot family, was the focus of similar attention, and Vivendi successfully took over the mobile publisher in June this year.
Beyond appealing to its shareholders, Ubisoft has been strengthening its position in other ways. This week alone, it purchased another 3.2% of its own stock for €122.5 million, and also acquired the mobile publisher Ketchapp.