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UPDATE 2-Vivendi blocks Ubisoft's staff share awards scheme as stand-off continues
September 22, 2017 / 4:10 PM / a month ago

UPDATE 2-Vivendi blocks Ubisoft's staff share awards scheme as stand-off continues

(Adds quotes from Ubisoft and Vivendi executives)

By Mathieu Rosemain and Gwénaëlle Barzic

PARIS, Sept 22 (Reuters) - Acquisitive media conglomerate Vivendi has prevented a staff share awards scheme going ahead at Ubisoft, where it is the biggest shareholder, as it presses to get board representation at the French video games firm.

Vivendi, which has built up a 26.63 percent stake in Ubisoft since 2015, said that it had abstained from voting on a number of resolutions at Ubisoft’s annual general meeting on Friday, including a motion to grant bonus shares to employees.

The resolution, which Ubisoft’s top executives said was aimed at attracting and keeping talent, needed two thirds of the vote to be passed.

But Vivendi abstained, saying some members of Ubisoft’s senior management could also have received free shares and without board representation it was impossible for Vivendi to approve the resolutions submitted for voting.

“If we were at the board we could be more nuanced in our votes,” Chief Operating Officer Stephane Roussel told Reuters after the meeting.

“We’re not going to distribute (shares) to people who keep on making fun of us,” he said, adding that Vivendi would have voted in favour of the share awards scheme were it reserved for staff creating the video games, which include Assassin’s Creed and South Park.

However, Ubisoft’s chief executive Yves Guillemot was unmoved.

“For us, the general meeting is a victory,” he said. “It shows a strong support from our shareholders,” he added, in pointing out that all other resolutions were passed.

Vivendi, led by serial corporate raider Vincent Bollore, has long been at odds with Ubisoft’s founding Guillemot family, which holds 15 percent of the shares and is opposed to Bollore increasing his influence at the firm.

“It is clear that this complete lack of transparency from the family shareholders is depriving the company of significant support in its development and of proven expertise in the fields of media and entertainment,” Vivendi said.

Vivendi’s next important date in the battle with Ubisoft’s management is Nov. 20, when it will automatically get double voting rights on some of its Ubisoft shares, helping it cross the 30 percent threshold for making a mandatory bid under French takeover rules.

Other video game companies are interested in collaborating with Vivendi and the group is weighing its options, Roussel said.

“We have two months and a half,” Roussel said. “We haven’t made up our mind yet.” (Editing by Bate Felix and Greg Mahlich)

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