Lagardère raided following the complaint of the British fund Amber Capital

Caught in a legal dispute with one of its main shareholders – the British fund Amber Capital – the Lagardère group saw its Paris headquarters be raided on Tuesday, September 14, as part of an investigation relating in particular to suspicions of vote buying .

Investigating judges ordered this search, after the opening in April of a judicial investigation for “Vote buying”, “abuse of corporate assets”, “inaccurate accounts” and “false or misleading information”, the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office (PNF) reported on Wednesday (September 15th), confirming information from Point. Asked by Agence France-Presse, the Lagardère group and the British fund declined to comment on the information.

In the spring, Arnaud Lagardère, 60, had to give in to the powerful shareholders of the multinational, including Vincent Bolloré, Bernard Arnault and the Amber Capital fund, who challenged his governance. He was threatened with blockage and faced with the economic difficulties of his group – owner of Hachette Livre and several media including radio Europe 1 and the weekly Paris Match – during the Covid-19 epidemic.

The transformation project, presented at the end of April and validated at the end of June at the general meeting, put an end to the atypical status of the group limited by shares, which made the heir of Jean-Luc Lagardère unbreakable although very much in the minority in the capital. Arnaud Lagardère obtained by this agreement a position of CEO for six years.

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Voting reversal and personal accounts

Before this outcome, the struggle for influence had lasted for months between Vincent Bolloré (Vivendi), allied to the Amber Capital fund, and the richest man in France and CEO of LVMH, Bernard Arnault, who supported Arnaud Lagardère.

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This situation had led Amber Capital, initiator of the rebellion against governance, to file a complaint with the PNF in February, in a guerrilla war which had already taken legal detours on several occasions. According to The world, this complaint concerned facts dating back to Lagardère’s general meeting in May 2018, during which Qatar, the reference shareholder, had turned around at the last minute by modifying its vote, initially in favor of Amber , to ultimately support governance. Amber also denounced potential irregularities in the accounts of the personal holding company of Arnaud Lagardère, heavily indebted to Crédit Agricole.

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But, on the occasion of the signing of the transformation project at the end of April, Lagardère had signed a “Transactional agreement” with Amber Capital who was supposed to put an end to the various legal proceedings between them. The PNF, however, took up Amber Capital’s complaint and opened a judicial investigation the same month.

When The world announced the existence of this investigation in July, the group said in a statement that it [respectait] the law and [défendrait] vigorously against any allegation to the contrary ”. “Lagardère SA finally deplores the leak into the press of information which would result from an investigation procedure, in disregard of the secrecy of the investigation which is protected under criminal law and has asked its counsel to initiate any legal proceedings as a result of this violation ”, added the press release.

At the beginning of September, the Arnault family announced that it was ending the shareholders’ agreement with Arnaud Lagardère, and that it was selling all of its shares in the manager’s personal holding company in exchange for Lagardère SA shares.

On September 24, CEO Arnaud Lagardère will face his shareholders, represented on the board of directors, to present his strategy and explain himself on this matter. According to a source familiar with the matter, “Lagardère is a group that will move”, whether the judicial file is oriented towards indictments or not. According to her, “Many shareholders wish to leave [du capital] and there is a strategy to redefine. From the moment the group has become a company like any other, the power is in the hands of the shareholders. “

The World with AFP

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