VIDEO. Lagardère, the end of an empire? When Arnaud Lagardère loses the game against Vincent Bolloré

The empire he inherited from his father was once as powerful in the world of media and publishing as in that of arms dealers… but Arnaud Lagardère may be living his last days at the helm of this giant born in France during the Pompidou years. “Complementary investigation” retraces the rise and fall of the Lagardère house on June 2, 2022.

How could such an influential group have become easy prey for Vincent Bolloré, about to acquire Paris Match, The Sunday Journal, Europe 1, Hachette and the Relay shops in stations and airports around the world, the latest jewels in the Lagardère crown? The Breton billionaire had been biding his time for years – in fact, since the sudden disappearance of Jean-Luc Lagardère in 2003. And it was an old family friend who opened the door to him.

Statement by Nicolas Sarkozy

Highly indebted after unsuccessful takeovers, Arnaud Lagardère saw his difficulties worsen with the Covid pandemic. When he asks for help from the one he calls his “brother”, Nicolas Sarkozy, he would have contacted Vincent Bolloré. Under cover of providing his support, the boss of Vivendi could well proceed as usual… That is to say, enter the capital with a small percentage (10.6% as of April 24, 2020), and then “nibble the company from the inside, little by little”, in the words of the journalist of Days Isabelle Roberts.

Arrival of Bernard Arnault

Aware of the danger, Arnaud Lagardère would then have asked for the protection of another billionaire, even more powerful than Vincent Bolloré: Bernard Arnault. The CEO of LVMH signs a check for 80 million euros, in memory of his friendship with Arnaud’s father… but perhaps also because he covets The JDD and Paris Match. A project that Emmanuel Macron, worried about the ultra-conservative orientation of the media owned by Bolloré (notably CNews), would see favorably, according to several journalists specializing in the media interviewed by “Complément d’Enquête”…

Abandonment of sponsorship and end of game

Furious at the arrival of Bernard Arnault, Vincent Bolloré then teamed up with a British investment fund, Lagardère’s second largest shareholder. Together, they weigh almost half of the capital. The heir has only one asset left: his sponsorship. This legal status was put in place by his father to ensure control of his business even though he was a minority shareholder. Against a large check (200 million euros) and a post of CEO for six years, Arnaud Lagardère agrees to give it up. “On June 30, 2021, when the end of the sponsorship is voted at the general meeting, says the journalist World Sandrine Cassini, c.t’s a bit the end… since there, Lagardère becomes a normal company. On that day, especially, Lagardère can be bought by anyone.”

Vincent Bolloré can then complete his lightning conquest and launch a takeover bid on the group. It’s over: Arnaud Lagardère has lost.

Extract from “Lagardère: the end of an empire?”, a document to see in “Complément d’Enquête” on June 2, 2022.

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