Aegis Deals Bolloré 4th Defeat

NEW YORK For the fourth time in a year, Aegis Group shareholders have rejected a proposal by French investor Vincent Bolloré to gain a pair of seats on the company’s board.

The latest vote on the matter was held today at Aegis’ regularly scheduled annual meeting in London. (Aegis shareholders had already voted down identical proposals just last month, as well as in June and November 2006.)

The results of all four votes were uniform: Each time, more than 90 percent of the shares not controlled by Bolloré were pledged against the resolution to place two of his associates on the board.

Lord Sharman, chairman of Aegis, said the outcome demonstrates that shareholders “have seen no change in circumstances to alter their opposition to board representation—reflecting the importance they attach to keeping the Aegis board completely independent of a competitor. We hope that Groupe Bolloré will listen to the views of its fellow shareholders.”

Bolloré is Aegis’ largest single shareholder, holding a 29 percent stake in the company.

He also serves as chairman of Paris-based holding company Havas. That standing constitutes a flagrant conflict of interest that should effectively bar his representatives from serving on Aegis’ board, the company’s management has argued.

Analysts have said that given Aegis’ strong financial performances of late, no real benefit would be gained by moving that company closer to Havas, which has turned in consistently mediocre results.

Bolloré has made no secret of his desire to combine the media operations of Aegis and Havas.

The former is the parent of the Carat, Isobar, Synovate and Vizeum networks. Havas owns Arnold, Euro RSCG and MPG.

At today’s meeting, Aegis also updated shareholders on the company’s first-quarter performance, reporting a nearly 11 percent revenue gain at constant currencies and an 8.5 percent rise in terms of organic growth. The company said digital services continue to be the fastest-growing part of its business.

First-quarter wins included the non-U.S. portion of the Twentieth Century-Fox media account (via Vizeum) and Carat’s successful defense of the Philips global account, with estimated ad spend of $600 million.