At the annual general meeting of Hachette’s parent company Lagardère yesterday (3rd May), shareholders refused to appoint the candidates proposed by activist hedge fund Amber Capital and instead re-appointed Xavier de Sarrau as chairman of its supervisory board. The group also confirmed it would be investing the proceeds of ongoing or future divestments in the growth of Lagardère Publishing.
The challenge from Amber Capital came after it criticised strategic management decisions at the group - particularly in relation to the acquisition of €865m sports agency Sportfive in 2006 and its integration - and suggested Lagardère's supervisory board, "the only counter power to management", wasn’t “fully independent”.
Amber, which owns 3.9% of Lagardère, particularly refused to back chairman de Sarrau on grounds the governance lawyer received €240,000 from Lagardère for advisory services for eight years while serving in the role. All resolutions presented by the managing partners of Lagardère, including de Sarrau's re-appointment, were nonetheless approved by shareholders at the group’s annual general meeting (a.g.m) in Paris on 3rd May.
Resolutions presented by the managing partners related to financial statements and the distribution of the dividend set at €1.30 per share, favouring the remuneration to the managing partners and the chairman of the supervisory board for 2017, the re-appointment as members of the supervisory board of de Sarrau, Yves Guillemot and Patrick Valroff, and reducing the maximum number on the board to 13.
Amber’s two draft resolutions, hoping to appoint Helen Lee Bouygues and Arnaud Marion as members of the supervisory board, were rejected with 82% of the negative vote.
Looking forwards, the group has said it is reviewing its sports and active divisions and reinvesting in its publishing and travel retail. General and managing partner of the Group, Arnaud Lagardère, took the opportunity to emphasise its commitment to publishing, calling it the “power engine of the group”, saying the division – along with travel retail - is where the future of the Lagardère Group lies.
Hachette Group c.e.o. Arnaud Nourry commented: “Arnaud Lagardère has gone public with his decision to invest the proceeds of ongoing or future divestments in the growth of Lagardère Publishing. Needless to say, I am thrilled and honoured by his commitment to support financially Hachette Livre’s goal to reinforce its position as one of the top-ranking publishing companies in the world.”