Last year, French media company Vivendi looked as though it was preparing to get back into the video game business by performing a hostile takeover of Ubisoft. Vivendi then seemed to cool on those plans, but two unnamed sources have told Reuters that Vivendi is resuming its hostile takeover of Ubisoft, and plans to own the company by the time 2017 comes to a close.
Vivendi, which used to have a majority shareholders stake in Activision Blizzard before selling most of it off in 2013, will reportedly accelerate its takeover plans of Ubisoft for a couple of different reasons. For one, Vivendi’s shares have fallen by about 3%, despite its recent acquisitions, which includes a 25% stake in Ubisoft. Secondly, Vivendi chairman Vincent Bollore wants to transform the company into a global powerhouse, an effort that will include taking over both Ubisoft and the advertising company Havas.
However, Vivendi’s hostile takeover of Ubisoft could potentially be stopped by the Guillemots, who founded the company in 1986 and have remained in leadership roles. According to the sources that spoke with Reuters, if the takeover of Ubisoft proves to be too costly due to the interference of the Guillemots, then Vivendi may abandon its plans and look for another way to return to the video game industry.
If its attempts to take control of Ubisoft fall through, then Vivendi may look into purchasing a different video game company entirely. Whatever company Vivendi goes after next, it will likely be headquartered in Europe, and will also have an established library of hit games, as is the case with Ubisoft. Alternatively, Vivendi could create its own game development company from the ground up, and potentially poach talent from Ubisoft and other sources.
While creating its own studio is a possibility, Vivendi has already taken major steps to buy its way back into the industry. Besides the Ubisoft shares it has purchased, Vivendi has also purchased the majority of Gameloft stock, with a 96% stake in that company. As it happens, Gameloft was founded by the Guillemots as well, and despite their best efforts, the family failed to prevent Vivendi’s hostile takeover of the mobile game developer. Considering this, Vivendi may very well end up owning Ubisoft by the end of the year.
Whatever happens, it’s clear that Ubisoft’s Guillemot family are against any kind of hostile takeover, with CEO Yves Guillemot actively campaigning against it. Guillemot even brought up the potential hostile takeover during Ubisoft’s E3 2016 press conference in a show of solidarity with his game developers against Vivendi. Whether or not the Guillemots are able to prevent Vivendi from purchasing Ubisoft remains to be seen, but it will be interesting to see how this situation develops.