Ubisoft Entertainment is best known for long-running game series such as Far Cry and Assassin’s Creed. Founded by the Guillemot family in 1986, the company has been wary of a potential takeover by Vivendi Universal. Vivendi had declared their intention to purchase Ubisoft subsidiary Gameloft earlier this year and succeeded in early July when Vivendi COO Stéphane Roussel was made CEO of Gameloft. The company had sold its 85% stake in Activision-Blizzard in July of 2013 to put towards reducing $8 billion in debt that they had accumulated.
In the interim, Vivendi had acquired a 20% stake in Ubisoft. French law mandates that a maximum of 30% of shares can be held by any one company and the increased amount of shares can be interpreted as another step towards an eventual takeover. The Guillemot family increased their stake in the company they started by purchasing 4,000,000 shares (a 3.5% stake) in early September.
“We have Plan A and Plan B,” Yves Guillemot told CNBC.com in June. “Plan A is to remain independent. Plan B is going with another group, either in the game industry or with a technology or other types of company. Those are the two options at this point and they are both still open.”
Ubisoft held their Annual General Meeting today without any opposition from Vivendi. Two newly-created positions on the board of directors were filled by candidates of Ubisoft’s choice without any issue or major objection. These new positions are part of an overall strategy to remain proactive against a future takeover attempt by Vivendi. CEO Yves Guillemot and CEO of Ubisoft Motion Pictures Gerard Guillemot had their board seats renewed ensuring that the family retains positions on the board of the company they founded. Guillemot received over 65% of the votes to stay in his position as CEO of the company. Vivendi had proposed no motions during the meeting and none of the company’s representatives spoke during the Q&A session.
Ubisoft released a statement underlying the significance of today’s meeting:
“Today during our Annual General Meeting, Ubisoft shareholders expressed massive support for Ubisoft’s strategy and management. We remain focused on the execution of our strategic roadmap, which has already proven successful and which we are confident will continue to deliver great results and value for all of Ubisoft’s stakeholders.”
Vivendi has previously brought companies within their fold through a combination of controlling seats on the board of directors and purchasing towards the legal French maximum of 30%. Although they already own 20% of the shares, the next opportunity to select board members won’t be until next year. Sources from within the company cited by Polygon stated that they believe Vivendi will attempt a more direct means of acquisition by way of a hostile takeover.
The Guillemot family would ideally like to keep Ubisoft as an independent entity. Business decisions made in the last six months (such as expanding an employee stock purchase program) have worked towards this goal. If they cannot operate independently they may opt to sell to another company to avoid a hostile takeover by Vivendi.
Do you think Ubisoft Entertainment would perform better with Vivendi Universal at the helm? Do you think Activision-Blizzard is better off as a more independent entity? Let us know in the comments below!