Vivendi Finally Makes Good on Its Long-Rumored Plans to Buy a Majority Stake in Havas

Offers more than $2.5 billion

The family owns controlling shares in both organizations. Vivendi/Havas
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After months of rumors, the Bolloré family has moved to consolidate its stakes in French media giant Vivendi and the global Havas organization.

According to multiple reports, a Bolloré board of directors release and Havas’ own statement, the agency network “has been informed” of Vivendi’s offer to pay 2.36 billion euros, or more than $2.5 billion, for the entirety of Havas Worldwide.

French businessman Vincent Bolloré and his son, Yannick Bolloré, are the key players in their family’s network, with the elder named president of Vivendi in 2014 and his son joining Havas as CEO the previous year. Vincent Bolloré currently owns a controlling share of 20 percent in Vivendi, which includes such divisions as Canal+ Group, Universal Music Group and Telecom Italia. He also owns 60 percent of the Havas organization.

Speculation regarding the acquisition reached something of a fever pitch in January, when Yannick stepped up to lead the Havas Creative Group in the absence of departed CEO Andrew Benett. (His father had previously placed him on Vivendi’s board.) The network later restructured its global framework, naming leaders in each major region and parting with creative leaders at Havas and Arnold.

“After having consolidated its foundations, Vivendi is now entering a new phase in its development, and this transaction will give the Group a new dimension to compete against powerful global players,” Vivendi said in a statement regarding the offer that would effectively place the two organizations under the same leadership.

Havas executives have long played down talk of an acquisition, but a release from Bolloré today read: “Given the financial terms, the strategic rationale and the development prospects implied by Vivendi’s indicative offer for the 20,000 employees of Havas, the boards of Groupe Bolloré have welcomed it and have decided to enter into discussions with Vivendi.”

Havas representatives did not respond to requests for comment, but executives have been expressing their excitement on social media today, with global Havas Group managing director Dominique Delport calling the would-be conglomerate “one of the sexiest [companies] in the [media and communications] sector.”

If the deal does go through as proposed, the Havas and Vivendi organizations will undoubtedly develop a closer working relationship across shared accounts. Vivendi is one of Europe’s largest media companies, and a majority of Havas’ revenue comes from ad placements.

Adweek named Havas its U.S. Media Agency of the Year in February.

@PatrickCoffee Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.