French publisher and developer Ubisoft is going through an internal struggle right now, in particular with French multimedia conglomerate Vivendi breathing down their necks.
The Guillemot family, which founded Ubisoft back in 1986, has been the head of the company for thirty years and is now considering selling their shares in Gameloft to Vivendi for a currently undisclosed sum, according to Reuters. The CEO of Ubisoft, Yves Guillemot notes that he and his brothers are currently discussing how this sale can strengthen their position within the publisher at this time.
A few weeks back, Vivendi submitted a request to purchase Gameloft, a subsidiary of Ubisoft, for the sum total of $750 million, which the Guillemots saw as a bid for a hostile takeover of their company.
Ubisoft has also turned to the Canadian shareholders for support in order to protect the company from further takeovers by Vivendi, who have owned a piece of Ubisoft since October of last year, purchasing a 10% stake in the company. Currently, Vivendi controls 18% of Ubisoft’s capital and with the bid to purchase Gameloft, increased their stake within the company to 15%, while the Guillemots control only 9% of their shares.
Vincent Bolloré, the current chairman of the advisory board of Vivendi, has publically stated that he wishes to become a member of the board of Ubisoft, something that Guillemot is adamantly against, stating”We don’t want them sitting on the board, because they’re implementing a creeping control strategy to take over the company.”
From 2007 to 2013, Vivendi was the majority shareholder for Activision-Blizzard, which Vivendi formed in 2008. In 2013, Activision-Blizzard announced that they would buy back over 429 million shares from Vivendi, totaling $5.83 billion, and dropping Vivendi from owning a majority stake in the company (63% at the time) to only 11% of the shares. In early 2016, Vivendi officially withdrew from Activision-Blizzard, selling the rest of its shares for $1.1 billion.
The Guillemots have been involved with probable takeovers in the past. In 2004, Electronic Arts purchased a 19.9% stake in Ubisoft, which the Guillemot family stated at the time was a “hostile takeover” of the company. EA at the time stated it was to be a “consolidator” for the industry, essentially claiming to help Ubisoft stay afloat when the industry was facing a downturn in the early 2000s. EA would leave never interfere with the company, before selling their minority stake in 2010 back to Ubisoft for an undisclosed amount.
With E3 right around the corner, it is unknown if the current plans for Ubisoft will be changing. At this time, it is business as usual for the company, which has released a new trailer for Watch Dogs 2 and is planning announce two new VR games during the conference.
What do you think about all of this? Which side are you on? Leave your comments below