The fact that media is a cutthroat game of acquisitions and outbidding, becomes far more accentuated when you have Vincent Bolloré speaking on his interest in media, how he intends to take the game forward for Havas Group, and giving his views on what he thinks on the likes of WPP’s Martin Sorrell and Publicis’ Maurice Levy.
French businessmen Bolloré’s interest in media began only in 2004 and he says he is enjoying every single minute of his time on the media side. He said, “It is evident now that the choices we made in 2006 were good and have paid off well. We have seen 3.2 per cent growth in the first quarter of this year and it feels like a bad pupil who gets average mark after ranking last in class.”
Bolloré is clearly happy with this growth figure and clarified other media speculations on his interest in the business and what he would do with the various Havas businesses like Euro RSCG, Havas Media that includes the likes of MPG, and so on. He said, “People were wondering whether I would stay, but you can see now that I am committed and involved with Havas Group and I want to ensure its growth.”
For Bolloré, there are two things that work for Havas – size and stability. He said, “When it comes to size, we are like a tiger amongst elephants and I think that is what will help us in getting better growth. Everyone knows about the revolution in media with the digital age and we are in a good position to adapt to the changes here very quickly.”
“I also think that stability is important for any business to grow and we have that. People like Martin Sorrell and Maurice Levy function like the military with a General and Lieutenants, but Havas is like a tribe and I want to keep it that way. There are great people working here and giving them their freedom would ensure stability – talent for us is a priority,” added Bolloré.
He further said that even as he admired Sorrell, his observation was that people like Sorrell and Levy were always working under pressure to make things happen in time. “Their rush is an advantage for us because we have time on our side. We can do things easily and we have decided to take one step at a time, we are confident of becoming the number one soon and we realise that there is a lot of work to do for that,” Bolloré commented.
When asked about his plans for India, he said, “India is a very important market and we are already doing a lot there in bringing some of the specialised Havas brands to India. We are hiring a lot in India and many key people have joined us there. It is a priority for us, and I want to be there next year.”
Also known as the French corporate raider, who has succeeded in making money by taking large stakes in French listed companies in the domains of building and construction groups, Bolloré became interested in the media business as late as 2004.
In late 2004, his investment group started taking a stake in advertising group Havas, becoming its largest single shareholder and taking control of the entity in July 2005, as Chairman of the Board. In 2005, through his family company, Bolloré expanded his media interests by launching Direct 8 television station. He then launched a free newspaper ‘Direct Soir’ in June 2006.
Bolloré was also in news when towards end 2005 when he began taking a stake in British planning and buying group Aegis and in July 2006, his share stood at 29 per cent.