Vincent Bollore intends to sell his shipping company, Delmas, in order to raise more capital to increase his stake in Havas, according to Havas board member Jacques Seguela.
A spokeswoman for Bollore this afternoon confirmed he is in negotiations to sell Delmas, but said the deal is not finalized. Delmas operates shipping lines to and from Europe and Asia. According to reports, it is France's second-largest shipping company. It's potential acquirer, CMA CGM, is France's largest shipping company.
Bollore, who heads Delmas, recently estimated its value at around $600 million, according to reports. A final decision about the sale is expected by July 29.
Bollore owns 22 per cent of Havas. Under French law, a shareholder whose stake exceeds 33 per cent automatically triggers a takeover.
All Havas clients contacted
Speaking with reporters at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival here, Seguela said Bollore told him he had also contacted all of Havas clients to assure them of his intentions not to break up the company.
Bollore, a French industrialist and corporate raider known for acquiring companies and then dismembering them to sell the parts, has in the last year become Havas' largest single stockholder. Earlier this month, he won a battle with Havas' Chairman-CEO, Alain de Pouzilhac, to have himself and three of his companies' executives added to Havas' board.
Mr de Pouzilhac resigned his position June 21 as Chairman-CEO, retaining only his position as a continuing board member of the company.
Bollore's months of moves have fueled widespread speculation about his intentions. However, he publicly told an annual shareholders meeting June 9 that he intended to keep the company together. He also made that assertion in a lengthy French newspaper interview.
In his Cannes remarks, Seguela told reporters that "I met with [Bollore] after Alain resigned and asked him whether he'll stay with Havas and why." Bollore reassured him that he intends to be a long-term Havas shareholder.
Seguala said Bollore wants to invest in Havas because of a fascination with the marketing industry and that the proceeds from the sale of Delmas will be used to further strengthen his position in Havas.
'He's sold his boats'
Segeula said de Pouzilhac resigned because his differences with Bollore turned into a public fight. "Alain believes that Vincent Bollore is there to buy and sell. If that becomes true, he will have been right to fight against it. But now Vincent Bollore's position is that he'll stay. He's sold his boats and has a strategy."
Seguela discussed that strategy in terms of the jungle. Havas, he told reporters, is a tiger -- nimble, fast and strong. Its larger competitors, like Omnicom Group and WPP, are elephants. Publicis Groupe, too, is a tiger, he said, but a "French tiger," smiling, indicating that it is does not represent the same sort of rivalry as its non-French competition.
Of the world's 10 best agencies, five or so of them, he said, are tigers: "Mother, Crispin Porter Bogusky, BBH, those agencies known for creativity, they're tigers. They have a tiger spirit."
Eating Martin Sorrell
"Havas has a tiger spirit," he continued. "Euro [RSCG, a Havas-owned network] is a tribe of tigers. We can eat the elephants." Placing his hand around his throat and grimacing, he said, "We can eat Martin [Sorrell, head of WPP, the world's second-largest marketing communications agency]."