In the latest turn of the screw for French ad holding company
, a dissident shareholder and onetime corporate raider has taken over as chairman.
Vincent Bollore, of France's Bollore Medias Investissements, took control of the board after a meeting Tuesday, according to a company statement. Bollore named Philippe Wahl, chief executive of French Bank Caisse d'Epargne, as CEO of Havas, and nominated no fewer than five managing directors from around the company.
The fifth-largest advertising network in the world, Havas owns Euro RSCG Worldwide, Media Planning Group and Arnold Advertising and boasts clients including
Bollore Medias Investissements took a big stake and slowly expanded its holdings of Havas last year. Bollore's nomination of four directors was loudly opposed by ex-chief Alain de Pouzilhac and the rest of the Havas board before shareholders surprisingly backed the insurgents last month.
De Pouzilhac stepped down last month as CEO after months of battle with Bollore. Havas shareholders embraced Bollore in a June 9 vote, forcing out de Pouzilhac after he called Bollore's actions a "creeping takeover" that hurt the company competitively.
Bollore had the help of a few friends along the way. In appreciation, on Tuesday he nominated them to vice president posts. They are Fernando Rodes, a smaller shareholder and chief executive of the media planning group; Ed Eskandarian, chief executive of Arnold Worldwide; and Jacques Seguela, chief creative officer. "These individuals embody the group's long-standing managerial equity and historical development," Havas advised.
Rodes, however, is said to have close ties to
chief Sir Martin Sorrell. Bollore is renowned in France for taking over struggling companies and selling them off piecemeal. Industry insiders acknowledge that were the company to be sold off in parts, MPG could easily fit into the WPP Group profile and Arnold could fit nicely with another ad holding company like Toronto's MDC Partners.
On Tuesday shares in Havas were up 6 cents to $5.33.