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By Mathieu Rosemain and Gwénaëlle Barzic
PARIS, April 19 (Reuters) - Telecom Italia shareholders should not support board candidates proposed by Vivendi, two advisory firms said, potentially dealing a fresh blow to Vivendi chairman Vincent Bollore’s attempts to build a southern European media empire.
Glass Lewis and ISS, the world’s two biggest shareholder advisory firms, said Telecom Italia investors should not support the list of candidates proposed by Vivendi, the company’s top shareholder, at a meeting on May 4.
Both advisory firms recommended that shareholders should instead back an alternative list of candidates presented by funds association Assogestioni.
In a separate set of recommendations for Vivendi shareholders, ISS said they should vote against the re-election of Bollore and the appointment of his son Yannick as company directors at Vivendi’s annual general meeting on April 25, citing concerns about a lack of independence of the board.
ISS also urged Vivendi investors to vote against executive pay levels for the management board, including for CEO Arnaud de Puyfontaine. Glass Lewis, in contrast, recommended approving all board nominations and executive pay levels.
A Vivendi spokesman was not immediately available to comment.
Bollore is Vivendi’s biggest shareholder with a 20.65 percent stake, and the billionaire has tightened his grip on the company’s supervisory board since taking over as chairman in 2014 by cutting the number of independent members.
He has also spearheaded a drive to turn Vivendi into a European media powerhouse, including amassing a 24 percent stake in Telecom Italia.
But his plans were dealt a blow on Tuesday when an Italian regulator ordered Vivendi to cut its stake in either Telecom Italia or broadcaster Mediaset within a year, ruling it was in breach of rules designed to prevent a concentration of power. (Reporting by Mathieu Rosemain, Gwenaelle Barzic, Agnieszka Flak, Stefano Rebaudo and Giulia Segreti; Editing by Richard Balmforth and Mark Potter)