To Fend Off Vivendi, Ubisoft CEO's Family Increases Its Stake In The Publisher

Ubisoft may be faced by a hostile takeover attempt in the near future.

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While French media conglomerate Vivendi has yet to initiate a hostile takeover of video game publisher Ubisoft, the threat of such a move continues to loom. That potential has seemingly resulted in a preemptive move on the part of the Guillemot family, of which Ubisoft CEO and co-founder Yves Guillemot is a part.

The Guillemots have increased their stake and now collectively own 13.6% of Ubisoft's shares and control 20.02% of its voting rights, according to a filing by France's AMF (via Reuters). However, it will reportedly not seek any additional seats on the board of directors. Five of the 10 directors are members of the Guillemot family, including Yves, the board's chairman. Last year, Ubisoft expanded its board with two new independent directors, bringing independent representation to the 50% mark. This is the point Ubisoft hoped to achieve as a means for helping to stave off Vivendi.

The progression of Ubisoft logos over the years, leading to 2017's new one
The progression of Ubisoft logos over the years, leading to 2017's new one

Vivendi has steadily increased its control of shares in Ubisoft since 2015; its ownership is now up to 27% of its shares (and 24.5% of voting rights). At 30 percent, French law would mandate that it pursue a controlling stake in the company.

Ubisoft and the Guillemots have repeatedly spoken out against Vivendi's moves, saying it would hamper the publisher's ability to innovate and be agile, among other things. Vivendi said in early 2016 that it had "no plans" for a Ubisoft takeover, but its actions have suggested otherwise. In April, Reuters reported that Vivendi would pursue a takeover attempt this year. Last year, Vivendi took over French developer Gameloft, which was also founded and led by the Guillemots.

Amidst all of this, Ubisoft has continued to focus on live-service games, VR, and support for Nintendo's Switch (most notably with the upcoming Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle). The company's stock price reached an all-time high on Monday, though it has since fallen slightly.

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