With a Vivendi Takeover Looming, Thursday Is a Big Day for Ubisoft

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  1. News Bot

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    French media company Vivendi has been making moves to take control of Assassin's Creed maker Ubisoft for the better part of a year now. Tomorrow may prove to be a significant day in that process, as Ubisoft will hold its annual shareholders meeting where Vivendi could attempt to secure seats on its board of directors.

    According to the Wall Street Journal, a Vivendi spokesperson wouldn't comment on whether it intends to seek board representation at Thursday's meeting. Sources speaking with the WSJ said Vivendi doesn't plan to do so. However, sources indicated to Polygon that not seeking board seats would suggest it plans to attempt a hostile takeover.

    "Since we became a shareholder, we have written requesting meetings but so far nothing has happened," a Vivendi spokesman told the WSJ. "We feel it would be normal as the main shareholder to have a seat on the board, but we're not in a hurry."

    Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot wasn't shy in expressing what he wants to happen, saying, "We won't relax until they sell their shares. The creeping control strategy implemented by Vivendi is dangerous. We think that there's a great risk of shareholders losing value."

    Ubisoft has not hidden its displeasure with Vivendi's acquisition of shares, a process which began last October when it bought a 6.6 percent stake in Ubisoft. At the time, Guillemot described the investment as "unsolicited and unwelcome," and he vowed to "fight to preserve our independence."

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    Yves Guillemot

    Vivendi has continued purchasing shares (its stake now sits at 23 percent), but it has denied that it has immediate plans for a takeover. The company has a history of takeovers, including just recently mobile game developer Gameloft--which, like Ubisoft, was founded by the Guillemot family. Prior to that happening, speculation earlier this year suggested a Gameloft takeover could be part of an attempt to force talks with the Guillemots about a takeover of Ubisoft.

    Ubisoft has made moves throughout the year to fight Vivendi. Guillemot met with potential investors in Canada to build support back in February, in part because the company would need at least 50 percent of voters to stop Vivendi from securing board representation during tomorrow's meeting. In July, Ubisoft nominated two independent directors for its board in an attempt to stave off a takeover. Those individuals, Frederique Dame and Florence Naviner, would be approved during tomorrow's meeting. They would bring the total number of independent directors (those who have no material relationship with the company whose board they sit on) up to five, representing the 50 percent mark Ubisoft had said it hoped to reach earlier this year.

    Earlier this month, the Guillemots purchased an additional 3.5 percent of Ubisoft shares, bringing their total to over 12 percent. Ubisoft itself acquired a major mobile game company, Ketchapp, which it said makes it the fourth largest mobile game publisher in the world in terms of total downloads. Additionally, it announced plans to form a book-publishing division, which follows its foray into TV and movie production.

    Earlier this month, Ubisoft hosted an event for the press, during which a key theme was Ubisoft's independence. Speaking with GameSpot, Yves Guillemot had a good deal to say about the subject, arguing that a takeover "threatens the construction and pillars of Ubisoft" and would remove Ubisoft's ability to take risks and be agile.

    We may learn on Thursday whether that independence is truly in trouble.

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