European Commission Investigates Vivendi for Possible Gun Jumping in Pending Acquisition of Lagardere
The European Commission has opened a formal investigation for possible gun jumping in Vivendi’s pending acquisition of Lagardère, the French media, publishing and travel retail conglomerate.
Vivendi, which is owned by conservative billionaire Vincent Bolloré and is the parent company of pay TV giant Canal+ Group, has a 57.35% stake in Lagardere. The Paris-headquartered company launched an OPA to acquire the remaining stake in Lagardere in 2022. After raising anti-trust concerns, the European Commission eventually gave its support for the acquisition of Lagardere on June 9 on the condition that Vivendi sells its publishing group Editis, as well as its stake in Gala magazine. Vivendi said both deals will be completed by October.
The launch of the E.C. investigation follows the shocking appointment of a new editor-in-chief Geoffroy Lejeune, well known for his far-right views, at Le Journal du Dimanche, a popular mainstream weekly newspaper owned by Lagardere Group. Although the appointment was made by Lagardere Group president Arnaud Lagardere, Vivendi boss Vincent Bolloré is believed to have played a crucial behind-the-scene role in this forceful exec shuffle.
Vivendi has not yet commented on the launch of the gun jumping investigation by the E.C. and previously denied being involved in the decision to appoint Lejeune in the French press. Variety has contacted Vivendi for a comment.
Lejeune is the former editor-in-chief of the hard-right publication Valeurs Actuelles who was recently ousted because he was too radical and led the magazine to a poor financial standing. Under his leadership, Valeurs Actuelles published an illustration depicting Black politician Danièle Obono as a slave, among several similar incidents.
Since Lejeune was named as the new editor-in-chief of Le Journal du Dimanche, which usually comes out every Sunday, it hasn’t hit stand. On strike since June 22, employees are protesting against his appointment and are demanding safeguard of their editorial independence. In spite of the strike — the longest in the history of the 75-year publication — Lejeune’s start date was confirmed for Aug. 1. on Monday.
The European Commission said on Tuesday that it “has decided to open a formal investigation to determine whether, when acquiring Lagardère, Vivendi breached the notification requirement and ‘standstill obligation’ set out in the EU Merger Regulation, as well as the conditions and obligations attached to the Commission’s decision to clear the Vivendi/Lagardère transaction.”
“At this stage, the Commission has gathered sufficient elements to open a formal investigation to determine whether Vivendi has complied with our procedures,” said Margrethe Vestager, executive VP in charge of competition policy. Vestager added that the commission “take any breach of these procedures very seriously.”
Vivendi is now facing a fine that may reach up to 10% of Lagardere’s annual turnover if the investigation finds that the company “either intentionally or negligently” breached requirements.
Lagardere posted an annual revenue of €7 billion in 2022. Besides Le Journal du Dimanche, Lagardere boasts a thriving travel retail business and publishing house, Hachette Livre, along with magazine Paris Match, radio station Europe 1.
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