A Bailiff today attempted to enter the offices of giant media and entertainment company Vivendi. The Bailiff claimed to be acting on behalf of an association that claims to be defending the rights of minority shareholders in the pending negotiations, and possible sale, of Vivendi’s SFR mobile phone unit.
It seems the Bailiff took instruction from one Ms. Colette Neuville who heads up that association, which is called l’ADAM, i.e. l’Association de défense des actionnaires minoritaires, and the Bailiff was seeking access to the Vivendi offices to obtain certain documents relating to that negotiation and possible sale.
While this may be wonderful chuzzpa, its grounding in law is questionable. Vivendi has been following a well established formal procedure with respect to selecting bidding parties for the possible acquisition of SFR. At this moment, also, Vivendi remains in an exclusive negotiation with one of those bidders, Patrick Drahi’s Altice Group and one of its controlled affiliates Numericable France, which is a French cable company.
That exclusive arrangement had been laid down as a favoured choice by the Vivendi Supervisory Board nearly three weeks ago, and will expire on Friday when, presumably, we will learn whether, or in what manner, it shall have born further fruit.
In the mean time, competitive bidder Bouygues has raised its own bid, and even offered a substantial breakup fee if its bid should be accepted, and then later run into regulatory problems preventing it from closing. Quite how comparable its more recent bid is to the Altice proposal is another matter, and we will doubtless learn more about Vivendi’s views on all of these issues by Friday.
Accordingly Ms. Colette Neuville’s peculiar intervention is surprising to say the least. As Vivendi put the matter itself in a brief announcement earlier today, “After considering the extravagant nature of this procedure, Vivendi’s lawyers have decided to oppose this intrusion and will apply to a judge for a summary judgment.”
As today is already April 2nd, we do know this should be taken at face value and is not an April fool’s hoax.