Ubisoft prepares to defend itself from Vivendi hostile takeover


Fear of a Guillemot-free planet

Remember when French conglomerate Vivendi gave up ownership in Activision Blizzard? You might struggle to remember the exact moment for a while -- three years is a long time -- but I assume you'll have a flash of realization once you remember my perfect headline for the article about Activision splitting off from Vivendi: Active fission: $8.2B to split Activision from Vivendi. Pretty great, huh?

Well, Vivendi might've let Activision buy back control of itself, but, apparently, that was not some video game-dumping strategy by the conglomerate, which seems to be setting itself up for a hostile takeover of Ubisoft.

Last year, Vivendi invested $183 million in buying a 6.6% stake in Ubisoft and 6.2% of Gameloft. Ubisoft was founded by five members of the Guillemot family, including Michael, who is the president and CEO of Gameloft (Yves Guillemot is the Chairman and CEO of Ubisoft). Shortly after, Ubisoft called the investment 'unsolicited and unwelcome'

The next day, Vivendi nearly dropped an additional $111 million buying up Ubisoft and Gameloft stock, ending up controlling 10.39% of Ubisoft and 10.2% of Gameloft. Last month, Vivendi sold off its remaining shares in Activision Blizzard (it had let go of controlling interest, but still owned a bunch) for $1.1 billion.

Vivendi has moved even more quickly in the Gameloft takeover. The Guillemots have rejected Vivendi's $562 million takeover offer at Gameloft as "too low." Today, Vivendi raised its offer by 20%, to $663.31 million. It already owns 30% of Gameloft. That 10.39% ownership of Ubisoft in October, too? Vivendi has since found more Ubistock to buy and owns 15.66% of the company (the Guillemots own 9.3% of Ubisoft).

All of this to say: Ubisoft is worried. According to The Globe and Mail, Ubisoft is "seeking the backing of Canadian investors to help fend off a creeping takeover in France from media giant Vivendi SA." Yves Guillemot met a dozen potential investors this week, insinuating that the 3,000 Canadian jobs created by Ubisoft might be at stake under new ownership, saying that, "the assets would be better protected if Ubisoft remained independent."

Should Vivendi manage to complete its hostile takeover without negotiating a friendly deal with the Guillemot brothers, they might end up splitting and drawing Ubisoft employees along with them. Or we might see the usual exodus of top-flight talent forming its own indie studios in light of the big, conglomerate buyout.

Maker of Assassin's Creed video game turns to Canadian investors to fend off takeover bid [The Globe and Mail]

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Steven Hansen
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Steven watches anime & sports, buys meat out of trucks, dates a Muppet, and is only good at cooking. He stands before you bereft of solace and well on the road to perdition. ('^ω^) more + disclosures



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