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New Vivendi chair confirms content acquisition strategy

By | Published on Wednesday 25 June 2014


French billionaire Vincent Bollore stood up as Chairman of Universal Music parent Vivendi at the firm’s AGM yesterday, the 5% shareholder in the group having slowly increased his influence in the board room in recent years.

Bollore confirmed that Vivendi’s priority is now content, it having divested itself of its flagging telecoms business. The group’s two main assets are now Universal and French TV firm Canal+, though it also owns Brazilian broadband company GVT and some other smaller businesses, such as ticketing companies Digitick and See Tickets.

The French group is expected to expand its assets in the content industries in the coming year, though Bollore promised shareholders that he wouldn’t let any acquisition spree prevent dividend payments from being made. It is thought that any purchases will be outside of music, Universal already being the world’s biggest music rights player, though there maybe TV industry purchases to expand Canal+ beyond France.

Outgoing chairman Jean-Rene Fourtou will become Honorary President and have an advisory role, with a focus on looking at how the different Vivendi businesses can better work together. Speaking at the AGM, Fourtou also discussed Vivendi’s slow withdrawal from gaming powerhouse Activision, in which it once owned a controlling stake. The divestment of the gaming firm possibly seems counterintuitive given the group’s mission in recent years to focus on its media and entertainment businesses.

According to Billboard, Fourtou said that while Activision was on “the cutting edge of technology” and “a jewel”, much of the firm’s success was based on just two titles, ‘World Of Warcraft’ and ‘Call Of Duty’, which the Vivendi board thought made it a “fragile” business. He also admitted that the original attraction of Activision for Vivendi was the ‘Guitar Hero’ franchise, massive when it bought into the gaming business, but a product that fell out of fashion incredibly quickly.

The outgoing Vivendi Chair also admitted that he and his board were sensitive to having control of a company whose cash cow was the sometimes controversial ‘Call Of Duty’ franchise. According to Billboard, he said: “Every single time there were massacres in Sweden, Norway, the United States, the killers were people who had been spending a lot of time playing [our two biggest] games, especially ‘Call Of Duty’. Supervisory board members just as you felt it was really a problem having this kind of business activity in our company”.

Which is interesting, business leaders with a conscience, who knew? Though their cash cow on the music side last year was ‘Blurred Lines’, so misogyny millions are fair game presumably.